Going Dancing: Old Dominion Defeats UNC-Wilmington In CAA Tournament Championship
March 9, 2002
NORFOLK, VA - Top seed and tournament host Old Dominion University (25-5) used balanced scoring and smothering defense to defeat sixth-seeded UNC Wilmington 76-48 in the championship game of the 2002 ALLTEL Colonial Athletic Association Women's Basketball Championship. The Lady Monarchs capture their 11th consecutive CAA title and earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
"Every title is different," Old Dominion coach Wendy Larry said. "I'll remember this one for all of the injuries this year that we overcame."
Nine ODU players cracked the scorebook, led by the 15 points of Myriah Spence (Espanola, NM). The sophomore guard, who played only 14 minutes combined in the two previous tournament games, came off the bench and hit 5-of-7 three- pointers. First team all-CAA performer Hamchetou Maiga (Bamako, Mali) added 13 points. Senior guard Sharron Francis (West Lanham Hills, MD) had nine points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. Junior guard Okeisha Howard (VA Beach, VA) was named tournament MVP.
"I think Spence was the real difference," UNC Wilmington coach Ann Hancock said. "She came in and hit shots."
The Seahawks, who were limited to 28-of-104 field goal shooting in the two regular season games against ODU, again struggled to find offensive rhythm. UNCW was able to connect on only 16-of-52 field goals (30.8%).
"Defensively, they are so tough," Hancock said. "They are so long and so quick. We tried to spread them out but they were still too quick for us."
Poor marksmanship plagued the Seahawks from the opening tip, as they were held without a field goal over the opening 5:20 while falling behind 12-3. A Jennifer Kapper layup finally broke the dry spell for UNCW, and two free throws cut the deficit to 12-7. But ODU reeled off the next six points to take an 18-7 lead. ODU eventually built a 27-13 lead.
The Seahawks then mounted a threat, scoring the next seven points to cut ODU's lead to 27-20 with 2:13 left in the half. But ODU responded with a jumper by CAA all-rookie selection Shareese Grant to take a 29-20 lead into intermission.
Despite their shooting woes, UNCW (16-14) was able to stay in the game at the charity stripe, particularly in the first half. In the first 20 minutes, the Seahawks made 10-of-14 foul shots while ODU attempted only three. Also, the Seahawks limited 2002 CAA Player of the Year Lucienne Berthieu (Rennes, France) to two points and two rebounds in the first half.
After being pushed to overtime in Friday's semifinal, the Lady Monarchs came out in the second half determined to put this one away early. UNCW never got closer than eight points in the second stanza, and trailed by as many as 29 points late in the contest.
"We took a gamble and packed it in like George Mason did and tried to make them make shots," Hancock said. "Last night they didn't. Tonight they did."
"There was a time in the second half that we just opened it up," Larry said. "I told our kids that if the opponent plays zone, we'd have to defend," she continued. "For about seven minutes we did just that and created openings."
After making 12 three-pointers in their first two tournament games, the Seahawks were held without one in the finale until the 7:04 mark in the second half. By that time, the Lady Monarchs had built a 53-37 lead. Then ODU went on an 11-1 run to erase all doubt.
Junior forward Shameka Montgomery led UNC Wilmington with 11 points and eight rebounds and was named to the all-tournament team.
Old Dominion, ranked 15th in the country, await its tournament pairing which will be announced tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. There is a chance that the Lady Monarchs could be a tournament host, a privilege bestowed upon the top four seeds in each region.
"My first case would be our RPI and ranking," Larry said. "The one thing the NCAA has to take a look at is attendance. If we're on the bubble for it, we're there with teams averaging 500 fans."
ALL TOURNAMENT TEAM Jen Derevjanik (GMU) Shameka Montgomery (UNCW) Lucienne Berthieu (ODU) Hamchetou Maiga (ODU) Monique Coker (ODU) Okeisha Howard (ODU) - MVP