Game #8-459: Old Dominion Monarchs at North Carolina-Wilmington SeahawksJanuary 25, 2012 7:00 pm
Earlier in the season, when looking to buy tickets from the UNC-Wilmington website, there was an option to purchase 4 games at once at a discounted price. You could either get the Old Dominion, VCU, or George Mason packages which guaranteed you a ticket to one of those "premium" games, plus 3 additional home games of your choosing. It would have been easy to go with George Mason or VCU, the teams whose recent runs to the Final Four have made them better-known nationally, but I went with Old Dominion instead. While I still hope to attend the other two games, Old Dominion intrigued me for some reason.
Who really knows how far ODU could have gone last year if Matt Howard and Butler didn't eliminate them in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (I know it's the second round, but I'll call it the first)? It could have been an all-CAA national semifinal matchup, but one can never know. This year it seems as if ODU has fallen back and, while they are still a strong CAA team, they'll have to win the conference tournament to have a chance to make it back to the Big Dance.
The Monarchs came into the game with UNCW with a 7-2 CAA record, and while they aren't out of it for the regular-season crown it is a bit of an uphill battle thanks to losses to George Mason and VCU. UNCW came into the night as a middle-of-the-pack CAA team with a 4-5 record. They hadn't won a game against the CAA "Big 3" since 2009 and were looking for something to hang their hat on after coming off a close loss to George Mason on the road.
Trask Coliseum was about a quarter full when I arrived 15 minutes before game time. I was surprised to see the students weren't already there in full force like they had been before the James Madison game I had attended. The arena would eventually fill up nicely, but it seemed as if the intensity was a bit off for the game.
A few minutes after the game started I saw a first. ODU coach Blaine Taylor called Jason Pimentel's number to enter the game, but there was one small problem. When Pimentel threw off his warmups, he didn't have a jersey on. The staff had to call him back as he didn't realize it. One of the managers raced to the back and, after a few minutes, was able to find Pimentel's jersey so he could enter the game. Unfortunately, that would be one of the very few entertaining moments of the first half.
ODU is known for some stiff defense, and they were confusing the Seahawks with different looks, but UNCW had their chances and missed some easy shots. The Monarchs weren't doing much better as the Seahawk D I saw against JMU had gotten a lot better. However, this doesn't produce very exciting basketball in the points department. After the first three media timeouts ODU had the lead, but they were 4-2, 6-4, and 11-7. Not exactly the most appealing scores, especially 13 minutes into the game. Things got so bad that ODU star Kent Bazemore had a breakaway and forgot the ball on the way up for a dunk, accidentally throwing it off to the side.
There was a scoring burst for about three minutes to make the first half score look a little more respectable, with ODU up 18-17 after the final media timeout. The teams decided that would be enough points for the half, going scoreless for the next 4 minutes after chucking up a few airballs.
I was really hoping that the game would pick up as the first half was pretty tough to sit through. I like some good defensive basketball, but that was a bit excessive. Thankfully the offenses settled in once the action started up again. Adam Smith caught fire for a spell and gave the Seahawks a bit of a lead, but Bazemore and Chris Cooper were able to keep pace for ODU.
ODU had a much better rhythm the rest of the game and when UNCW went cold again the Monarchs kept clicking. It was by no means an offensive explosion, but after a Bazemore 3 put ODU up 9 with 3:30 to go, some Wilmington fans started to give up and head for the exits. It is very stupid to give up on your team so quickly -- little did these people know that ODU was only around a 61% FT shooting team. UNCW got a few quick buckets and started putting the Marquel De Lancey on the line. He went on to miss a few, including an airball, which helped put the Seahawks back into it. Wilmington couldn't get all the way back, though. Their youth showed through with some awkward shots towards the end, leading to an ODU victory.
ODU got the road win and is a very solid team. The offense needs some work especially after the poor 1st half performance, but the defense will give any of the CAA contenders trouble. UNCW came close, but couldn't get that signature win. They have two more cracks at it when GMU and VCU come to town, but it'll be a tough task for this growing team.