Sports Briefs

VCU Women’s Basketball hosted CAA rival Drexel Sunday afternoon at the Siegel Center and won 70-61. With the win, VCU improves to 7-9 overall, and 4-3 in the Colonial Atheletic Association. The loss gives the Dragons a 3-5 CAA record and a 7-10 record overall.

The Rams were led by Senior forward Kristine Austgulen, who set a VCU record for most free throws made in a game, with 15 of 15 attempts converted. Austgulen also posted her tenth double-double of the season while leading both teams in points as well as rebounds. She finished the game with 31 points, 11 rebounds and four steals. Junior guard Cyndy Wilks scored 19 points for the Rams, while teammates Maria Giovannetti and Candice Phelps contributed five assists and nine rebounds, respectively.

Drexel’s top scorer was freshman guard Jackie Falson, who netted 16 points. Junior guard Candice Wilkins scored ten for the Dragons, and teammate Katrina Martin led all players with eight steals in the game.

The game opened with a 7-0 run by the Rams, but Drexel closed the gap and the scored remained within three for most of the first half. Drexel would take a four-point lead into the break at halftime, leading 28-24. The Dragons shot 44 percent in the first and VCU shot 39 percent.

In the second half, the Dragons held the lead for the first four minutes, but VCU would regain the lead and hold on for the remainder of the game, twice extending their lead by as much as ten points. The Rams shooting improved in the second half, where they shot 79 percent to Drexel’s 32. For the game, the Rams shot 57 percent and the Dragons shot 37 percent, while VCU racked up 38 rebounds to Drexel’s 20. Both teams amassed 15 assists.

The Rams’ next game is against George Mason. The team will travel to Fairfax, Va to face their rivals at 7 p.m. on Jan. 30.

The VCU baseball team has been picked as the favorite to win the Colonial Athletic Association baseball tournament this year. The Rams, who won the tournament last year, were picked to win again this year in the CAA preseason poll.

The poll is voted on by the CAA’s 10 head coaches, five of whom gave VCU their first place vote. VCU’s five first-place votes helped to give the Rams a poll point total of 76, just one point ahead of rival James Madison University.

Third in the poll is UNC Wilmington, with 63 points, followed by Delaware (60), who received the tenth first-place vote. The remaining teams point totals are as follows: George Mason and Old Dominion tied for fifth (43), William and Mary (38), Towson (25), Drexel (15), and finally Hofstra (12).

One reason the Rams are expected to do well this year is that a number of key players are returning to the team. Five position-player starters will be back this year, as well as five of the Rams’ top seven pitchers from last season. Standout junior pitchers Brian and Sean Marshall, both lefthanders, are back for another season and look to be helped out by the addition of sophmore transfer student Justin Orenduff.

Last year closer Brian Marshall (six wins, 10 saves, 3.08 earned run average in 41 appearances) was named to the first team All-CAA team as well as the second team All-East Region team. Marshall’s brother Sean, a former Freshman All-American in addition to 2001’s Rookie of the Year, compiled 90 strikeouts in 85 innings last season for the Rams. Orenduff comes to VCU from George Washington University with a 10-2 record and a 1.68 ERA, and will head up the starting rotation along with Sean Marshall.

The pitching staff will be helped out this season by the return of junior second baseman Nick Jones and seniors Danny Lopaze and Jose Pabon. Jones received second team All-CAA honors last year while batting .340, with 21 doubles and 51 buns batted in. Lopaze led VCU in home runs (eight) and batted .316 last season, while teammate Pabon hit a school-record 26 doubles.

Last season, Head Coach Paul Keyes led the Rams to a 38-27 record and their fourth NCAA tournament berth in five years. VCU is now ranked 25th in this year’s Baseball America preseason ranking, and look to continue their success. The Rams will open season play with three games against Auburn starting Friday, Feb. 7.

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