Thursday, January 12, 2017

Big shots: Wednesday's top stars

Sure, No. 15 Virginia Tech finally fell from the ranks of the unbeaten Wednesday at No. 14 Miami and yes, despite a 15-1 record, the Hokies are now 0-1 against teams currently in the AP Top 25. But given the quality of Tech's effort in defeat, the performance actually validated the Hokies' standing as a Top 25 team a lot more than many of their victories. At least that's how we view it.

As for the night's three stars:

3. Kara Wright, George Mason

In addition to being extremely productive, the Patriots senior also has a flair for the dramatic. On Nov. 30, her driving layup with 3.5 seconds left lifted the Pats to a 55-54 victory at Detroit. And Wednesday, with Mason trailing George Washington by three and time running out in regulation....
George Washington ultimately escaped the Revolutionary Rivalry with a 79-71 overtime win. But the victory came despite another sensational effort from Wright, who finished with a game-high 23 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists in 43 minutes.

2. Samantha Hill, Virginia Tech

The Hokies senior delivered yet again in her breakout final season, scoring a game- and career-high 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting in Tech's 82-75 setback at No. 14 Miami. It's the fourth straight game with double-digit points for Hill, who averaged 2.5 points per game in limited minutes last season. Through 16 games the Toronto native has scored 180 points; she tallied 195 in her previous two seasons combined.

1. Dominique Harper, Norfolk State

Another player who has seized opportunity when provided extended minutes, Harper contributed a game-high 16 points - one short of her career high - in the Spartans' 61-55 victory over Savannah State. It marked the sixth straight game Harper has scored at least 10 points. Now, Harper had 16 points and Hill and Wright each had 23, so why is Harper our No. 1 star? Harper's team won. That's the point of these exercises, right?

Wednesday's results

No. 14 Miami 82, No. 15 Virginia Tech 75
A 25-point fourth quarter vaulted the Hurricanes, who trailed by one after three quarters. The Hokies fell despite some big individual efforts - in addition to Hill's 23 points, Regan Magarity went for 18 points and 13 rebounds and Chanette Hicks finished with 19 points before fouling out of the high-level affair that featured eight ties and 13 lead changes. But that's life in the ACC,

George Washington 79, George Mason 71 (OT)
The Patriots surged to a 13-point lead in the second quarter but shot 1-13 from the field and scored just four points in the third quarter.

Norfolk State 61, Savannah State 55
The game itself may not have been pretty, but a 2-0 record in MEAC play has to look simply gorgeous to an NSU team that a year ago started out 0-9 in conference (0-19 overall) before bagging its first league win on Feb. 6.

Fordham 67, Richmond 41
More offensive struggles for the Spiders, who scored just five points in the second quarter to lose contact with the Rams in the Bronx.  Fordham (14-5, 5-0 Atlantic 10) continues to set the pace in the Atlantic 10.

St. Joseph's 64, VCU 58
The fourth straight road loss for the Rams, and disappointing play in the fourth quarter has been a critical component in three of them (Old Dominion, Saint Louis and St. Joseph's).

What's our record?

Virginia Tech 15-1, 2-1 ACC; William and Mary 11-2, 1-1 CAA; Virginia 11-5, 0-3 ACC; Radford 11-3, 3-0 Big South; JMU 9-5, 2-1 ACC; VCU 9-9, 2-2 A-10; George Mason 9-9, 2-3 A-10; Richmond 8-9, 2-2 A-10; Hampton 8-7, 2-0 MEAC; Old Dominion 7-8, 2-2 C-USA; Norfolk State 7-7, 2-0 MEAC; Liberty 4-10, 3-0 Big South; Longwood 3-11, 0-3 Big South

Thursday's game

Old Dominion (7-8, 2-2 C-USA) at Southern Miss (10-5, 2-1), 7 p.m.

The Lady Monarchs are just 2-5 in their last seven games. Also, an interesting pattern has emerged of late regarding the performances of ODU's dynamic Jennie Simms. Over the last eight games - or ever since the exam break - Simms has consistently alternated one strong scoring effort (26 points or more on at least 50 percent shooting) with one tough one by her standards (17 points or less while making less than half her shots):

Dec. 16 vs. Hampton: Simms 28 points on 11-20 shooting

Dec. 20 vs. Syracuse - 13 points on 4-11 shooting

Dec. 21 vs. Dayton - 32 points on 11-22 shooting

Dec. 28 at East Tennessee State - 17 points on 6-20 shooting

Dec. 30 at Rice - 26 points on 9-16 shooting

Jan. 1 at North Texas - 14 points on 4-11 shooting

Jan. 5 vs. Marshall - 43 points on 14-22 shooting

Jan. 7 vs. Western Kentucky - 13 points on 5-18 shooting

It's probably just a coincidence. Still, Lady Monarchs fans ought to be hoping this pattern has one more game in it.

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