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Monarch Insider No. 11-Preparing for Georgetown

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: November 14, 2010
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Nov. 14, 2010

Monarch Insider No. 11 - Preparing for Georgetown

Monarchs fail to top Hoyas, but not for lack of preparation

Brendan O'Hallarn Monarch Basketball Insider

Old Dominion Coach Blaine Taylor sat down in the interview room after the team's second exhibition victory over Elizabeth City State University, and relayed what he said to his team: "I told them, the price of poker goes up now, boys."

By now we all know ODU lost a squeaker to the Georgetown Hoyas, 62-59 on Friday night at a packed, raucous Ted Center. An eight-point lead disappeared in the final seven minutes, as the Hoyas' trio of outstanding guards poured in six three-pointers.

It was a bitter end to a week of focus, preparation and game-planning. But Monarch fans saw plenty of things to be excited about in this year's team. Georgetown was truly fortunate to escape Norfolk with the win I popped in at practice four days in a row last week, as the team got ready for its biggest non-conference home game since, well, probably the last time Georgetown was here in late 2007. What an interesting vantage point for a pivotal game. It was fascinating to see so much of what was stressed on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday materialize on the court on game day.

Monday

The team spent a lot of time working in a four-on-four halfcourt drill. The coaches were especially interested in seeing their big men Keyon Carter, Frank Hassell and Chris Cooper dig in in the low post and demand the basketball. At one point, Carter took (and made) a turnaround fallaway jumpshot. Not what Taylor wanted.

"You keep doing this," Taylor said, pantomiming Carter's fallaway. "Why can't you give (the guard passing the ball) a target? Where's your target? Dig in on him. I'm on your (butt) because you can score a lot more ways than you are right now." Turning to the rest of the team, Taylor stresses that they have to play "punch and post" better. "It's what we're good at!" After a few repetitions with mixed success, one of the four-man units runs a five pass sequence, leading to a short jumpshot that Ben Finney hits. "That's hoops!" Taylor said.

Tuesday

One day closer to Georgetown, the volume rose a few decibels. The team ran five-on-five halfcourt drills, with a rule that the post had to touch the ball twice before any shot. Nobody scored for quite a few possessions, and the coaches grew visibly more and more frustrated.

Finally, things boiled over when Nick Wright, an excitable player all the time, felt like he was fouled on a short shot he missed. He said something. Then something else. Then one more thing.

"Nick, get out. I need someone who can play," Taylor screamed. "You know what's getting these other guys better? Shutting up and playing ball." The next possession, with the intensity through the roof, a ball went up from three and Cooper grabbed a rebound. He fired a shot up awkwardly and missed, but grabbed the rebound. Then he did it again, and again. Finally, on his fifth shot attempt, Cooper converted the short putback. Instructive ... those four offensive rebounds were gathered in while Cooper was surrounded by three players from the other side.

Wednesday

Practice started a little later today, as the Monarchs were looking at film of their Friday opponent. Seconds after arriving in the gym, Taylor broke the players up into pairs, guard and forward, and had them work on driving, dishing and getting a return pass. Players were urged to look for "their" shot. A coach or a manager was at each basket and would occasionally step in to contest a shot, or make an entry pass more difficult.

Taylor encouraged forward Frank Hassell, who whistles while he works on the low block most of the time, to take some turns passing the ball in from the perimeter and attacking the basket. "They're going to play a lot of zone, I think," Taylor told Hassell. "We're going to have to come at them from different angles." On the flipside, guard Kent Bazemore posted up for almost all of his turns, shooting step-back jumpers and little floating hooks.

Thursday

After three high-volume days in the practice gym, the Monarchs moved to the Constant Center for Thursday's practice. And a fascinating thing happened to the coaches ... they got quiet. After a week of aggressive critique, the positive encouragement flowed. Frank Hassell beat his man for a layup. "That's it. That's it. Big time!" Taylor cheered. The reserves (playing against the starters) got away in transition and Marquel De Lancey drove for a layup. "That's it, Kel! Take it to the rack," said associate head coach Jim Corrigan.

In the mock game, where offensive and defensive calls changed just about every time down the court, the starters handled the reserves fairly easily, 20-8. As the reserves ran their "punishment" suicide, the coaches and players on the winning team clapped encouragement, an ODU practice tradition. With the players standing on one baseline, Taylor dropped to one knee and spoke quietly.

"Early in the game, we can't get too excited. The gym's going to be loud, but we've got to run our stuff," he said. "The second thing, we're going to have to change a lot of offenses, a lot of defense; some zone, some man, a bit of trapping. "And if we get them in a hole, they're not digging out of it this time."

Just as expected, Friday's game was a whirling, high-intensity chess match between two well-coached teams. During the mega-tense second half, both coaches were switching defensive looks on almost every possession. The game had the feel of a late February matchup. Star players are expected to produce in those games, and Georgetown's two all-Big East conference guards - Austin Freeman and Chris Wright - did just that, getting loose from behind the three-point arc in the final seven minutes.

Taylor sounded upbeat during post-game interviews. "If you'd told me before the game that we'd have a little bit of a lead at halftime, and a chance to nudge it to double digits in the second half, I'd have taken it," Taylor said.

"We were put in a lot of different situations where we kept having to adjust and think, and that's the kind of stuff we're going to have to do as the year unfolds. So you kind of live and learn, as a first game learning experience, it was an awfully good one."

The Georgetown players and coaches knew they'd been in a war. "Old Dominion is really good. They execute really well and they're really big and long. A lot of teams we play aren't going to be as big as them," Wright said.

Brendan O'Hallarn, an employee in public relations at Old Dominion University, writes Monarch Basketball Insider. To see other stories, please see the Monarch Insider website, at http://www.odusports.com/ot/monarch-insider.html. If you would like to share your thoughts about ODU basketball, or have a story you'd like to see Brendan write, contact him at brendanwork@hotmail.com.

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