Fall to Fresno State Bulldogs in CBI Semifinal
Upon his arrival at Old Dominion University in April 2013, newly appointed Coach Jones relayed this message to his team, “let’s look forward, not backward.”
Despite a 71-64, loss Wednesday, evening at Save Mart arena, in Fresno, Ca – it was evident the Monarchs put the 5-25 season in the rear-view mirror. In its first season under Jones, Old Dominion won 13 more games than the season before, one of the top turnaround seasons in the country.
The Monarchs in its first season in Conference USA (C-USA) were predicted to finish 14 out of 16 teams. However, behind junior forward Richard Ross, stellar guard tandem of sophomores Keenan Palmore and Aaron Bacote and freshman 3-point bomber Ambrose Mosley (who led the team with 58 triples off the bench) the Monarchs finished sixth in C-USA going 9-7 during conference play, securing a first round bye in the C-USA tournament.
The pregame narrative for the Monarchs was getting to Fresno.
As reported by Ed Miller of the Virginian Pilot, after an overbooked flight, “Plan B entailed flying out of Norfolk on Tuesday afternoon, connecting via Minneapolis to San Jose and then busing to Fresno. The team was scheduled to arrive at its hotel about 1 a.m. Pacific time. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. Pacific – 10 p.m. Eastern.”
According to Miller, “We’re looking at it as an adventure, something the players can remember,” Jones said. “You have to have a positive attitude about it.”
Five minutes into the game, the lack of rest started to show, as ODU scored just two points in a span of four minutes.
After Paul Watson knocked home a trifecta, the Bulldogs founds themselves up 30-19 with 5:23 remaining in the first half.
The Monarchs ended the first half on 12-5 run including a three from Mosley and Jordan Baker, and went into the half trailing 35-31.
Aaron Bacote nailed a 3-pointer with 16:06 remaining in the game to cut the lead to 39-38.
The teams traded baskets for the next 7 minutes of game action and ODU never got behind by more than five points until a layup by Marvelle Harris with 8:25 remaining pushed the lead 53-47.
The Monarchs scored the next four points but could never take the lead. ODU cut the lead to one on four different instances in the second half, but could never take advantage of their opportunities.
According to USA Today, “One play here, one play there. Give Fresno State credit,” Jones said. “Clearly they wore us down and the travel … you could tell right away that our guys were getting fatigued.”
The Bulldogs knocked down 14 free throws in the final 6:00 of the game to secure a spot in the CBI championship series against Siena.
Dimitri Batten led the Monarchs with 14 points, Denzell Taylor had 12 and Ross added in 11.
For the championship-bound Bulldogs, Harris led with 20 points, Paul Watson scored 15, Cezar Guerro scored 14 and Tyler Johnson scored 13.
According to fresnobee.com, “I thought Harris in particular was terrific during that time we cut it to one,” Jones said.
“We didn’t guard him one-on-one and we didn’t get help soon enough. He drove the basketball, got some tough baskets and made his free throws. He really was the difference.”
According to odusports.com, “We wanted to hang in there and give ourselves a chance,” said Jones. “We had a couple of near misses, but just couldn’t get over the hump. I thought Harris was the difference as he took over the game for Fresno State. I am so proud of this team and how they battled all season long.”
By Brian Saunders