March 11, 2011

VCU ADVANCES TO CAA SEMIFINALS WITH 87-76 WIN AGAINST HOFSTRA

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. – Junior Andrea Barbour (pictured, left) matched a career-high with 28 points and classmate Courtney Hurt posted her NCAA-leading 24th double-double as No. 4 seed Virginia Commonwealth University used a 19-5 second half run to defeat fifth-seeded Hofstra University, 87-76, Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Colonial Athletic Association Women's Basketball Championship at The Show Place Arena.

With the victory, VCU advances to the semifinals and will face top-seeded James Madison on Saturday at Noon.  The Rams and Dukes square off in the semis for the fourth consecutive season.  JMU has won the last two postseason meetings.

A layup by Hofstra's Anma Onyeuku knotted the score at 64-64 with 8:33 remaining but senior Jessica Taylor, who registered her first career double-double while knocking down a career-high five 3-pointers, nailed a triple from the left wing and sparked a 19-5 VCU run which gave the Rams a 14-point advantage with 2:28 to go.  Hofstra would get within nine with just over a minute left but it was as close as the Pride would get.

"I thought our kids came out and played with a lot of energy today," said VCU Head Coach Beth Cunningham.  "Our team stepped up, especially in the second half when the game was on the line.  Our upper classmen played like upper classmen.  It was a great all-around effort by our kids and we're certainly happy to have at least one more game on our schedule."

Hurt (pictured, left), who already owns both the VCU and Colonial Athletic Association's single season double-doubles record, finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds.  Taylor established career highs in points (17), rebounds (11) and 3-pointers (5), while junior Chelsea Snyder added six points and nine boards.

VCU got off to a hot start after Hofstra missed its first five from the field and committed a pair of turnovers en route to a 10-0 Rams' lead less than 3:30 into the contest.  The Pride would settle down, however, using a 9-2 run and All-Rookie selection Kate Loper nailed a triple from the top of the arc to pull Hofstra within 14-11 with 13:51 showing.

 Loper kept the Pride within four following a layup with 12:22 left but a quick 3-pointer by Taylor and a fast break layup from Barbour put VCU back in front 24-15 less than 30 seconds later.  The Rams continued their scoring surge and used a 13-5 spurt and Barbour capped off the run with a traditional three-point play to put VCU ahead, 32-20, with 9:26 to go.

Down 12 with nine minutes remaining, Hofstra scored seven straight and Evans pulled the Pride within 34-29 at the 6:08 mark.  A trey by Taylor with 3:53 left gave VCU an eight-point advantage but Hofstra mounted another rally, scoring eight of the next 10 and got within 41-39 with a minute remaining.  Hurt gave VCU a 43-39 lead at the break.

Taylor (pictured, right) knocked down her third triple of the game to put VCU on top 48-41 with 18:51 to go but Hofstra used an 11-0 run to take its first lead of the game, hitting a perfect 7-of-7 from the free throw line, and the Pride went on top 52-48 with 16:36 showing.  After both teams traded baskets during three straight possessions, Hurt corralled a loose ball and used a fast break layup to knot the game at 54-54 a minute later.  VCU then regained the lead on a jumper by Barbour at the 14:32 mark and pushed its lead to 62-57 on a layup by Snyder with 11:07 to go.

Hofstra battled back and tied it at 64-64 on Onyeuku's layup with 8:33 to go but Taylor again answered with her fourth 3-pointer of the day less than a minute later and VCU went back in front.  The Rams continued their offensive swing and Taylor capped off a 19-5 run from behind the arc with 2:28 to go, giving VCU an 83-69 advantage.

A triple by Jael Pena pulled Hofstra within single digits at 85-76 with 1:09 to go but it was too late to complete a rally as Hurt hit a pair from the line with 54 seconds showing.

VCU, which leads the league in rebounding margin, held a 51-40 advantage on the glass.

"Defense and rebounding is our biggest focus coming into games and I thought we did a great job on the boards today," said Cunningham.  "We tried to limit them as much as we could on the glass.  [Hofstra] has such a high-powered offense; they're active and quick to the ball.  I felt like, in order to win this game, we were going to have to dominate the glass."

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