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Men’s Basketball: Monarchs, Patriots surprise their state rivals
VICTORY OVER VIRGINIA A NEEDED
MORALE BOOST FOR OLD DOMINION
MORALE BOOST FOR OLD DOMINION
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
THE FREE LANCE–STAR
RICHMOND—Neither Virginia nor Old Dominion will participate in the Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament this season.
But only the Cavaliers are grateful that’s the case.
Virginia suffered its third loss to a CAA team on Saturday when it fell to Old Dominion, 63–61, in the Governor’s Holiday Hoops Classic at the Richmond Coliseum.
The Monarchs (2–10) had dropped nine straight games before the victory. Virginia (9–3) had won eight in a row.
Old Dominion is ineligible to compete in the CAA tournament in its final year in the league before heading to Conference USA.
The Cavaliers have endured all of their losses to CAA teams, including George Mason and Delaware.
“We could definitely tell when we played George Mason and ODU, they gave it their best effort out of any team they played just because we’re Virginia, we’re in the ACC, they feel like they’re below us and they want to prove to people they’re better than us,” Virginia freshman point guard Teven Jones said. “They just really out-hustled us, out-toughed us and they came out with the win.”
Old Dominion overcame a 10-point second-half deficit with a 21–4 run that was fueled by the play of reserve guard Dimitri Batten.
Batten scored 16 of his career-high 23 points in the second half. He connected on 5-of-9 attempts from behind the 3-point line as Old Dominion built a nine-point lead with 5:48 left in the game.
Batten entered the game averaging 7.2 points per contest and shooting just 33 percent from the floor. But he and teammate Donte Hill said his outburst came as no surprise.
“I just did the stuff I usually do in practice, I just brought it to the game,” Batten said. “It was nothing unusual.”
The Cavaliers staged a final rally to get back in it.
Junior Joe Harris connected on a 3-pointer from the corner to pull Virginia within 55–51 with 58 seconds remaining.
But the Monarchs made 8-of-9 free throws in the final minute to seal the win. Virginia’s best opportunity to tie the game came when Jones connected on a baseline jumper with three seconds remaining and the Cavaliers trailing 62–59, but officials ruled the shot a two-pointer.
“I was kind of rushed,” Jones said. “I didn’t really have time to look down and see where my feet were. So being court-smart, I stepped back thinking I was behind the line, but I guess I wasn’t.”
Virginia was forced to foul, and Hill made one of two free throws to set the stage for a last-second heave from Harris. Hill blocked the shot and the Monarchs celebrated a victory that head coach Blaine Taylor compared to the “Miracle on Ice.”
Old Dominion was missing starting point guard Keenan Palmore who was out with a concussion. The Monarchs dressed just eight players.
“There’s a lot of wins I’ve had over the years, but this will go down as one of the ones I’ll appreciate as a coach,” Taylor said. “I told the kids, ‘I couldn’t ask for a better Christmas present than to go up to Richmond and beat Virginia.’”
The Cavaliers’ mood was not as merry.
Head coach Tony Bennett lamented that his players had several breakdowns defensively that allowed Old Dominion players to drive into the paint too easily.
He said he hopes his players weren’t “feeling themselves” after their winning streak, but added that a loss to a team that dropped 10 of its first 11 games should wake them up in a hurry.
“I hope that wasn’t the case,” Bennett said. “But if it was, this will certainly bring them back to reality.”
GEORGE MASON 67, RICHMOND 64
The Patriots (7–4) earned a thrilling win over the Spiders in the opening game Saturday on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by junior guard Sherrod Wright.
Wright led George Mason with a game-high 22 points. Corey Edwards added 13 points for the Patriots.
Richmond senior guard Darien Brothers paced the Spiders (9–4) with 20 points. But Brothers was held to five points in the second half after connecting on his first five 3-pointers of the game.
“At halftime we talked about Brothers and [Derrick] Williams,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt said. “We said ‘If we can keep those two guys under control and take care of the ball, we have a chance.”
The Patriots trailed by 12 points with eight minutes remaining before their crucial run. Stafford County resident Patrick Holloway (five points) connected on a 3-pointer during the spurt to pull George Mason within 62–61 with 1:53 left in the game.
The Patriots took their first lead on a tip-in by Jonathan Arledge 20 seconds later. The Spiders tied the game at 64 on Cedrick Lindsay’s acrobatic layup with 19 seconds left to set the stage for Wright’s big shot.
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526