Drexel pulls out close win in first round
Dragons overcome early foul trouble, defeat Towson 52-46 to advance to quarters
Issue date: 3/11/11 Section: Sports
It's that time of the year where collegiate basketball players show what they have been working for all season. It's the time when fans take the meaning of school pride to another level.
For Drexel and its eleven conference-mates, it's time to compete in the Virginia 529 College Savings Plan Colonial Athletic Association Women's Basketball Championship March 10-13 at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md.
I have avidly followed the women's CAA conference throughout the 2010-11 season, which is why I feel my predication is warranted. So, let's cut to the chase - which team will take home the title everyone is vying for?
Drum roll please … and the winner will be Old Dominion University.
The male Monarchs have already earned a spot in the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, and the women will follow.
Let me break this down for you. As the bracket stands, here's the lineup:
The first four games of the tournament all took place throughout the day March 10.
Game 1, No. 9 Georgia State University upset No. 8 George Mason University (7-11 CAA) 68-64 at noon. No. 5 Hofstra University (10-8) and No. 12 College of William & Mary (2-16) duked it out for Game 2 at 2:30 p.m, where the Pride trumped the Tribe 89-67.
Game 3, No. 7 Delaware University (10-8) took down No. 10 Northeastern University (3-15) 74-66 in a tough battle at 5:00 p.m. And finally, our very own No. 6 Dragons (10-8) beat No. 11 Towson University (3-15) 52-46 at 7:30 p.m. The Dragons dominated the Tigers in what can only be described as a nail-biting, sit-at-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of experience.
The four teams with byes are: No. 1 James Madison University (16-2), No. 2 Old Dominion (14-4), No. 3 University of North Carolina Wilmington (14-4) and No. 4 Virginia Commonwealth University (13-5).
Let's start with the James Madison Dukes. They are set to play Georgia State March 11, at noon. They had a 16-2 record in the CAA during the regular season, earning them the No. 1 spot in the tournament. This is the first time since 1989 that a team in the CAA has had sole ownership of the first place ranking.
Big scorers such as Dawn Evans, the all-time leader in points scored in CAA history, and Tarik Hislop will help JMU make it to the finals. Their record has been impressive to say the least; with only two losses, one against Old Dominion, and one against Hofstra (which ended their 13-game winning streak), the Dukes are a tough team to beat.
With that said, I feel the Monarchs will be the team to oust them.
During the regular season, ODU and JMU split results. On Jan. 9, the Dukes fell to the Monarchs 71-55, despite 17 points from Evans. A month later, Feb. 6, the results flipped. JMU came out with guns blazing and won 67-58, once again with points from key players, Evans (25) and Hislop (26).
Last year in the tournament, JMU took down UNCW 67-40 in the quarterfinals, and then proceeded to beat VCU 79-70 in the semis.
In the finals, the Dukes defeated the Monarchs 67-53.
Now, for those of you who are thinking, if the Dukes beat the Monarchs last year, then why won't they do it again this year?
The answer? Because the rivalry has been reignited.
Old Dominion left last year's tournament with bruised egos and a sour taste in their mouths. They aren't going to let that happen again - not to mention they have the confidence of knowing they have already beaten the Dukes once this year.
Here are a few other fun facts:
Over the past 19 years that Old Dominion has competed in the CAA tournament, they have gone 53-2 overall. To put that in basic terms, they have won 17 conference titles and have only lost twice in the tournament.
This is the third time the Monarchs have taken the No. 2 seed. The past two times ODU possessed this ranking, in 1995 and in 2005, they took home the league title.
Adding to their list of impressive stats, the Monarchs are 18-0 in the quarterfinals. This year it will become 19-0, when they defeat Delaware. I say this with confidence because ODU has already beaten the Blue Hens 70-61 during the regular season Feb. 27.
As far as their record in the semifinals goes, the Monarchs are 18-1, and in the finals they are 17-1. With that said, their quest to reach the finals will be a feasible task, seeing as they were one of four teams that beat UNCW during the regular season. Unfortunately for Drexel fans, that means the Dragons will be knocked out of the tournament.
Before discussing the outcome of the Drexel-UNCW match-up, let's take a moment and talk about our very own Dragons.
It's no surprise that Drexel beat Towson. All you need to do is look at their record with the Tigers during the regular season.
The previous two times Drexel and Towson met, the Dragons came away with wins - that's not to say that the wins were easy.
The Dragons defeated the Tigers in overtime 45-43 the first time they played Feb. 3. The game started off with pure blue and gold domination. That changed in the final seconds of the second half; Drexel had possession of the ball with just eight seconds remaining and Taylor Wootton was called for traveling.
The Tigers used the turnover to their advantage and tied the game, sending it to overtime. Although the added time was nerve-racking for Drexel players and fans alike, the Dragons pulled through during the last 12 seconds and closed the game in at 45-43.
The second time the Dragons took on the Tigers wasn't as dramatic as the first, yet it was just as exciting. Even though the Tigers rallied in the second half, contributions from players such as Kamile Nacickaite and Hollie Mershon - each scored 16 points - helped solidify the 58-47 win over Towson.
Unfortunately for the Dragons, their game against UNCW during the regular season wasn't as successful.
During the conference opener for both Drexel and UNCW, the Dragons fell to the Seahawks 69-61. During the contest, a total of four Seahawks, two of which were Kristen Hanzer (15 points) and Jessica Freeman (16), scored 10 or more points.
Even though the Seahawks led by 14 points at the half, Drexel managed to stay in the game with help from this year's CAA Fans' Choice Women's Basketball First Team members, Jasmina Rosseel and Mershon (12 points each).
The Dragons came within two points of UNCW with just over six minutes left in play, but in the end it was too little too late, not to mention Drexel turned the ball over 19 times and only shot 35 percent from the floor.
The Seahawks came away from the game with a .644 field goal percentage, which was the highest single game field-goal percentage since their 2000-01 season.
With UNCW and ODU tied for second, as far as their record is concerned, some may wonder why ODU will take home the title over the Seahawks. Of the four teams that UNCW lost to this season, ODU was one of them. Of the four teams that ODU lost to during the regular season, UNCW was not one of them.
I know my theory is not supported by a mathematical formula, but it is supported by the team's record and the team's ability to win in crunch time. In my opinion, no team does it better than the Monarchs.