DEFENSIVE DECISION SPARKS VCU PAST ODU

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VCU limited Old Dominion to 35 percent shooting in the second half and overtime of Wednesday's win.

RICHMOND, Va. – I suppose there’s truth in the idea that defense and rebounding are decisions, that they’re more about effort and “want to” than about actual talent. But you can’t tell me that Rosie O’Donnell can guard Candice Parker. I don’t care how hard she tries.

However, it’s true that desire can get you a defensive stop much more often than it can produce a 3-pointer or an exceptional individual offensive play.

VCU has plenty of athleticism and ability, but in the first half of their 76-72 overtime victory over rival Old Dominion, the Rams watched the Lady Monarchs shoot 55 percent.

The Rams (10-5, 3-1 CAA) were slow to get back defensively in transition, and ODU burned them to the tune of an 11-2 advantage in fast break points. When the Lady Monarchs (5-11, 2-2 CAA) weren’t bleeding VCU on the break, they were pounding the ball inside, scoring 24 points in the paint in the first half on the way to a 45-36 lead. Something was missing.

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2011-12 VCU WOMEN’S BASKETBALL PREVIEW

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All-American Courtney Hurt led the nation in rebounding (12.4 rpg) and double-doubles (25) last season. She also ranked second nationally in scoring (23.2 ppg)

When Beth Cunningham took over as head coach in 2003, there was exactly one postseason banner hanging inside the Verizon Wireless Arena for the women’s basketball program.

If that wasn’t bad enough by itself, that lonely piece of fabric was old enough that the tournament it was intended to celebrate, the National Women’s Invitation Tournament, had changed its name since the Rams’ 1995 appearance.

Now there are five banners, including a giant gold and white one from VCU’s 2009 NCAA Tournament appearance. In Cunningham’s eight seasons at the helm, the Rams have rewritten VCU Women’s Basketball history. VCU has reached the postseason in four consecutive seasons. The Rams are working on a school-record streak of five straight winning seasons. Three of the program’s four 20-win campaigns have come under her watch. The school’s all-time leader in victories with 148, Cunningham has coached two WNBA draft picks and an All-American.

At this point, when she takes inventory of the program, Cunningham doesn’t have to ask what the Rams have done, it’s what they still need to do. When she looks up into that northwest corner of the arena, she knows the answer. The Rams are still chasing their elusive first conference championship, Colonial Athletic Association or otherwise. VCU reached the championship game in 2008, another first for the program, but fell to Old Dominion.

“It’s something that you’d like to have already done, hang a championship banner, but there’s been so many good things that have happened with our program…it’s part of the building process,” Cunningham, 148-100 in eight seasons, said.

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