Eager Monarch fans welcomed the anticipated debut of college basketball Friday, Nov. 9 as the beginning of the 2012-13 season went into effect. The Monarchs men’s basketball team opened the NCAA regular season as they hosted this year’s Liberty Tax Classic at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.Presented by Athletes in Action, the tournament featured ODU, Holy Cross, Morgan State and the University of Texas at San Antonio, providing fans with exciting team matchups and an overall solid weekend of basketball.
The Monarchs’ first game of the series was against the Holy Cross Crusaders; a small university outside Worcester, Mass. Led by third year head coach, Milan Brown, the Crusaders finished their 2011-12 season with an overall record of 15-14, finishing fourth in the Patriot League.
The Monarchs finished their 2011-12 season with a record of 22-14, ending the season at fourth place in the Colonial Athletic Association Conference. The Monarchs proved themselves by making a strong presence in the NCAA last year, including being ranked among the nation’s top 50 in scoring defense as well as ranked No. 10 in the nation in steals. This game also marked the Monarchs’ first encounter with the Crusaders in school history. Even though ODU proved to be a strong competitor, the Crusaders’ unique game pace and strong offense provided difficulty for Old Dominion and the Monarchs were defeated in a close game 45-46. The Monarchs and Crusaders both came out strong during the beginning of the first half, but pre-season habits and tendencies showed through each team throughout the game. With the Crusaders continuously changing defenses, ODU had trouble with the pressure sophomore guard Justin Burrell placed on ODU’s point guards from the moment the ball was put into play. Midway through the first half, however, the Monarchs broke the Crusader’s 2-3 zone by utilizing some of their players’ heights and found open opportunities down low. Although this provided the Monarchs with easy field goals, the opportunities resulted in ODU forcing anticipated passes and plays where some players weren’t open. Holy Cross led 22-18 at the end of the first half.The Monarchs gave it their all in the second half and kept themselves in the game. With 12 seconds remaining, Dimitri Batten hit a shot to tie the game up at 45. The Monarchs fouled freshman guard Cullen Hamilton following the basket and sent him to the line. Hamilton made one of his two free throws to put Holy Cross up 46-45 and give them the win.ODU struggled from the field during the game, shooting only 39 percent on the night. The team also failed to make any three point shots. The Monarchs did out-rebound the Crusaders 43-30, but could not take advantage of it. Burrell and Hamilton both played well for Holy Cross, putting up 15 points each.It was a tough game for the Monarchs and it really brought to light the effects of losing players like Kent Bazemore and Chris Cooper to graduation after last season. It may take ODU some time to figure out who their new “go-to” guy will be, and fortunately they still have time to do that. By: Sarah Condon