Ahmad Caver Makes a Fallaway 3-Pointer With 3.3 Seconds Left to Lead ODU to 57-56 Win Over Louisiana Tech
By Harry Minium
He wasn't Conference USA Player of the Year. He was edged out for that honor by his close friend, roommate and teammate B.J. Stith.
But when Old Dominion (24-8, 13-5 C-USA) desperately needed a miracle, the senior point guard from Atlanta delivered.
Caver fired up a fallaway 3-point shot that swished through the next with 3.3 seconds left that advanced the Monarchs to the Conference USA tournament semifinals, and kept their hopes alive of going to the NCAA tournament.
A desperation jumper from Daquan Bracey as the buzzer sounded clanged off the iron and ODU emerged with a stunning, 57-56, victory over Louisiana Tech in the quarterfinals at the Ford Center at The Star.
ODU plays UAB in the semifinals at 1:30 on Thursday. The Blazers defeated Texas-San Antonio, 85-76, in another quarterfinal game.
The game will be televised by the CBS Sports Network.
ODU trailed 56-49, and appeared to be in big trouble, with 1:48 left after Bracey made a 3-pointer that bounced off the backboard and into the net. The 1,000 or so Louisiana Tech fans had turned the arena into a Bulldog pep rally and fate seemed to be going in the Bulldogs' direction.
ODU would not have beaten Louisiana Tech had it not been for the 9 points, 5 rebounds and blocked shot from Aaron Carver.
But then Caver went to work, outscoring LATech, 8-0, in the final 90 seconds.
He made a twisting shot in the lane to trim the lead to 5. After Bracey missed a layup, ODU broke down the court and quickly set up its offense. Caver took a pass, and then stepped back a pace behind the 3-point line, and swished a shot that trimmed the lead to two with a minute left.
Bracey was fouled while shooting but missed both, and Stith went up over a Tech player to grab the rebound with 28 seconds left.
Tech denied ODU an open shot until there were ten seconds left, when Caver fired up a two-pointer that missed. It was rebounded by Kalu Ezipke, who fired it out to Caver for the game-winner.
"Anyone who saw the game knows we were fortunate to win," ODU coach Jeff Jones said. "We're offensively challenged and we really struggled to shoot the ball. Louisiana Tech was the aggressor most of the game.
"But Ahmad stepped up and made a lot of big plays for us down the stretch."
ODU indeed struggled. Stith missed nine of his first 10 shots and the Monarchs shot just 37.5 percent for the game.
Stith managed to scored 10 points and pull down 11 rebounds in spite of his shooting woes, mostly by driving in the lane and making short jumpers. Caver had 17 points, eight assists and three steals.
Stith said he was not surprised when Caver made the game-winner.
"Ahmad has been doing that all year," Stith said, "That’s not anything new. When ODU’s in a tough spot, Ahmad has the ball in his hands.
"I expect nothing less. He’s been the best point guard in the league and one of the best in the country."
B.J. Stith shot poorly, but still managed to scored 10 points and grab 11 rebounds for ODU.
Stith and Caver were neck and neck in voting for Player of the Year, and when Stith won, Caver sent out a series of Tweets congratulating his friend. His message: if anyone else had won, I'd be upset. But I'm glad B.J. won.
Even when Bracey banked in the 3-pointer, ODU continued to play with poise. That has been the hallmark of this season all season. The Monarchs have won a ton of close games with clutch shooting or defensive stands.
"We were down 21-0 to Western Kentucky and came back and won," Caver said. "We were down 17-0 to VCU and came back and won.
"Clearly, our team doesn't ever give up. We know the formula that gets is back in a game. This was the conference tournament. You lose and your out. There was no point in getting down in this game."
On his last shot, Caver said "I pump faked for some reason.
"I knew I had to get a shot up. You've got to have heart to play this game and to take those kinds of shots."
The victory ended a two-game losing streak in which the Monarchs fell at home to Southern Miss on senior night and then lost at UAB. In both games, Stith, Caver and Xavier Green struggled to get open shots.
Jones challenged his other players to step up.
"I said on the postgame radio show that some of those other guys had to step up," he said "They didn’t have to be double figure scores, but they weren’t even making layups."
Aaron Carver, who's an outstanding defensive player and rebounder, but is among ODU's most challenged offensive players, stepped up in a huge way. He made all four shots he took and had nine points.
Ezipke made all three shots he took, and got the rebound that set up the game winner.
"Throughout the season we've won a bunch of close games," Jones said. "We just keep hanging in there. Sometimes when you you hang in there, the ball might bounce your way. Sometimes It’s better to be lucky than good. Especially this time of year, all that matters is getting the W and moving on."
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