Lady Monarchs Defeat East Carolina 89-60 in CAA Semifinals
By ODU Athletics
RICHMOND, Va. (March 10)(AP) - So much for No. 14 Old Dominion's vulnerability.
The Lady Monarchs rebounded from a close quarterfinal victory over George Mason on March 9 with an 89-60 thrashing of East Carolina on March 10 to advance to the championship of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
``Collectively we weren't happy with our performance yesterday,'' said Natalie Diaz, who led the charge against the Lady Pirates with 14 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. ``We kind of used that as a little spark. We came in so focused today that we were able to do things that we weren't able to do yesterday.''
Essentially, that amounted to a lot of everything as Old Dominion (26-4) extended its winning streak against CAA teams to 101 games and moved within one of setting an NCAA record with its ninth consecutive conference tournament title.
The Texas women won eight straight Southwest Conference crowns from 1983-90, and Old Dominion will take a 26-0 record in its CAA tournament history into the potential tiebreaker Saturday against James Madison or North Carolina-Wilmington.
The Lady Monarchs shot 53.4 percent, outrebounded East Carolina 48-28 and held all-CAA first team forward Danielle Melvin to one point and five rebounds.
``They did a perfect job on me,'' said Melvin, who came in averaging 16.2 points and 8.3 rebounds. ``Wherever I turned it felt like I turned into a wall.''
Old Dominion, meantime, could do almost nothing wrong. They opened a 30-9 lead after 10 1/2 minutes, led 45-29 at halftime and by at least 16 the rest of the way.
``We knew with our limited numbers and lack of size, we were going to really have to fight and claw for everything,'' Lady Monarchs coach Wendy Larry said. ``We talked about going to war to advance, and they went to war.
``Our five starters from the jump attacked and we didn't let up.''
East Carolina (15-14), playing in its final CAA tournament before a move to Conference USA in two years, was eliminated by Old Dominion for the second consecutive year. Last year, the Lady Pirates lost 73-67 in the championship.
Coach Dee Gibson said she watched the Lady Monarchs struggle against George Mason on Thursday and knew that would spell trouble for their semifinals foe.
``I looked at my assistant, and I didn't tell this to our players, but I looked at her and said, `I feel sorry for the team that has to play them tomorrow,''' she said. ``I turned out to be us, but I knew they would be ready to play.''
The Lady Monarchs took control early, running of 25 of 30 points in one early stretch to turn a 5-4 game into a 30-9 runaway. Diaz hit four jumpers in the burst, and Old Dominion was a combined 12-for-16 from the field in the run.
``It was all about focus for us,'' the senior forward said.
The Lady Monarchs, playing without scoring and rebounding leader Lucienne Berthieu because of a sprained right shoulder, got 16 points each from Okeisha Howard and Sharron Francis, 15 from Hamchetou Maiga and 14 from Diaz and Kim Giddens. Point guard Alli Spence added 10 points, seven assists and three steals.
``They're better (without Berthieu),'' Gibson said, ``because they know they have to be better. They know everybody has to step up without their All-American.''
Rosalyn Canady led the Lady Pirates with 20 points and Waynetta Veney had 17. East Carolina shot just 37 percent (20-for-52) and had 16 turnovers.