Thursday, March 23, 2017

JMU, Virginia Tech resume play in WNIT

Virginia Tech and JMU return to action Thursday night as the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) rolls on Thursday night with eight round of 16 matchups. A look at tonight's schedule:

Virginia Tech (19-13) at Penn State (21-10), 7 p.m.

 - Virginia Tech's challenge became more daunting when hosting privileges were awarded, as Penn State has won nine straight at home and is 16-1 at Bryce Jordan Center this season. Only Duke and Bucknell, both 16-0, have more wins with fewer losses at home among Division I teams. Virginia Tech is 15-0 against non-ACC opponents this season, but only three of those games (Auburn, Charleston, UCF) were on the road. Tech did prevail at Penn State last year, nabbing a 64-59 victory on Dec. 3, 2015. Four of the Hokies' current five starters logged at least 23 minutes in that game and the fifth, Sidney Cook, played 16. Game will showcase three sensational sophomores - Penn State's Teniya Page and Virginia Tech's Chanette Hicks and Regan Magarity. Page, a first-team All-Big Ten pick who has already joined her school's 1,000 career points club, is averaging 19.8 points per game and has been particularly tough in late-game situations. The dynamic Hicks leads the Hokies in scoring and ranks fifth nationally in steals per game. And Magarity, a redshirt sophomore, just broke Tech's single season record for rebounds (300) and has scored at least 24 points in each of her last three games. Both teams own a signature early season home win over Tennessee; The Nittany Lions beat the Lady Vols the Sunday before Thanksgiving; the Hokies did likewise three days after the holiday.

Next up: The winner will face Thursday's Michigan-St. John's winner in the WNIT quarterfinals.

Villanova (18-14) at JMU (26-8), 7 p..m.

- These teams have never played before. But the Dukes have played Drexel at least two times a season - three in 2016-17 - for years, and there are a lot of similarities between the two Philadelphia schools. Drexel coach Denise Dillon starred at Villanova under long-time coach Harry Paretta, and she borrowed liberally from the Wildcats' playbook when establishing her own program. Obviously the personnel is different and it's not a perfect match. But like Drexel, Villanova makes you defend deep into the shot clock, hoists a lot of 3-pointers, makes its free throws and doesn't beat itself with turnovers. The Wildcats lead Division I in fewest turnovers per game and have paced Division I in this category in five of the past eight seasons. The Wildcats are statistically a subpar rebounding team, though, so the Dukes could enjoy a significant edge on the boards. JMU also has one of Division I's top closers in guard Precious Hall, who has been fearless - and money - in clutch situations all season.

Next up: The winner faces Thursday's Indiana-SMU winner in the WNIT quartefinals.

Other WNIT games Thursday (Eastern time)

St. John's at Michigan, 6 p.m.
SMU at Indiana, 7 p.m.
Middle Tennessee at Georgia Tech, 7 p.m.
Tulane at Alabama, 8 p.m.
Colorado at Iowa, 8 p.m.
UC Davis at Washington State, 10 p.m.

Complete WNIT bracket

Top scorers remaining in WNIT

1. Precious Hall, JMU - 23.7 ppg (3rd in Division I)
2. Tori Jankoska, Michigan - 22.6 (9th)
3. Alex Johnson, Middle Tennessee - 20.6 (16th)
4. Katelynn Flaherty, Michigan - 19.8 (21st)
5. Teniya Page, Penn State - 19.8 (22nd)
6. Kolby Morgan, Tulane - 18.9 (35th)
7. Megan Gustafson, Iowa - 18.7 (40th)
8. Tyra Buss, Indiana - 18.4 (47th)
9. Ty Petty, Middle Tennessee - 18.4 (51st)
10. Kennedy Leonard, Colorado - 17.4 (74th)

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