Minium: Win Over VCU was Sweet, but ODU Looks Forward to Games with JMU and William and Mary
By ODU Athletics
By Harry Minium
As a four-year starter at Old Dominion back when the Monarchs’ torrid rivalry with VCU was a twice-a-year, CAA and later Sun Belt Conference grudge match in the 1980s, Ronnie Wade tried to explain to his son, Jason, Wednesday night just what he was in for.
Jason is an ODU freshmen from Richmond who chose the Monarchs over VCU (and yes, that was a big recruiting win for coach Jeff Jones).
He realized the VCU-ODU rivalry was big. But, no, he admitted, he had no idea how big until he stepped on the floor Wednesday night at the Constant Center.
“My dad was trying to give me advice on how loud the crowd would be, how intense the game would be,” Wade said.
“I just didn’t understand.
“It was crazy. Being on the court like that, it was a surreal experience.”
Indeed it was. The crowd went absolutely bonkers. The style of play wasn’t pretty on either side, but it was a maddeningly intense, physical game that had, and always has, the feel of a conference championship game.
ODU has had a tendency this season to wilt down the stretch, as it did in a tournament against Oregon State, when the Monarchs blew a 14-point lead.
But against VCU, the Monarchs came storming back from a 17-point deficit to beat the Rams, 62-52, before a frenzied Ted Constant Center crowd of 8,142.
Senior B.J. Stith, who scored 21 points and notched his first victory over the Rams in three tries, finished off the game with a resounding dunk. Senior Ahmad Caver, who also won for the first time against VCU, added 13.
It was the only the second time in the last eight games that ODU won, and this came at key time for ODU, which advanced its record to 4-3 after some disappointing early-season losses.
But it was just one game, and the first of three in a row against state schools that Jones’ said the Monarchs need to win.
James Madison, a long-time rival for ODU back when the Monarchs were in the CAA, travels to the Constant Center Saturday at 7. Then William and Mary, another former CAA foe, visits ODU Wednesday, Dec. 5, also at 7.
Both games will be televised on ESPN+, a streaming service.
“As good as that feeling was, we have to work and continue getting better,” Jones said. “That’s what good teams do. Some teams would be celebrating the win against VCU rather than turning past that game and looking forward the next opportunity.
“Both games are very important. They’re on our home court. They’re state rivalries. In a number of ways, it would diminish the win against VCU if we don’t come out and play well and then don’t win against JMU.”
William and Mary, whose basketball program is among the CAA’s best, has beaten ODU three times in a row. The Tribe rolled over St. Joseph’s earlier this season, a team that handled ODU in Philadelphia a few weeks ago.
Wade came off the bench against VCU to score seven points and pull down seven rebounds. The game didn’t hinge on one player. But success is often dictated by recruiting victories, and as I said, beating VCU for Wade was a big win for Jones.
“Jason Wade certainly gave us life,” Jones said. “I don’t think people realize all that we’re asking of him.
“He’s a freshman, who’s only played a few college games, and we’re asking him to play four positions. That’s a lot to ask out of a young guy.
“There was a of time when he was out of position and we had to pull him out of the game and let him know what he was doing wrong. He’s being asked take on so much so early in his career, and he’s really responded.”
ODU trailed by 12 at the half. The Monarchs had played good defense, but offensively, were missing easy shots.
“I didn’t raise my voice once” at halftime, Jones said. “That’s not what we needed.
“Mostly, our guys just talked with each other. We kept saying, keep grinding and stay together. That was the message. Minus that, we don’t win.
“When things got hard, we didn’t blink. That’s good to see because a lot more games are going to be like this. When you call behind you can just keep pushing forward, or you can give in.
“And our guys didn’t give in.”
VCU leads this series 51-43, according to official records, but those records are misleading.
The Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary, as ODU was called when established in 1930 and later Old Dominion College and Old Dominion University carried on a long rivalry with the school that became VCU in 1968.
VCU began in 1917 as the Richmond School of Social Work and in 1925 became the Richmond Division of the College of William and Mary and eventually became known as Richmond Professional Institute.
But 1968, both schools already had a strong rivalry in part because they were so much alike and separated by 90 miles of Interstate 64.
Both schools are urban universities that began largely as commuter schools and transformed themselves into more traditional residential institutions. VCU has a medical school and a revered art program. ODU’s program in arts has grown immensely under President John R. Broderick, but it is known largely for its STEM-H programs, or students majoring in science, technology, engineering, math of health sciences.
Only Virginia Tech graduates more STEM-H students than ODU in the commonwealth.
I attended games at RPI’s old Franklin Gym in the 1960s, and the place was always packed for games with Old Dominion, as was the Norfolk Arena, where the Monarchs often hosted their hated Richmond rivalry.
The rivalry began in 1948, when both schools played college freshman teams and junior colleges. By the late 1950s, both were playing four-year schools.
The Norfolk Division and Old Dominion dominated that series 32-7, so in essence, ODU leads VCU in the basketball series, 75-58.
For Buttons Speaks, Dick St. Clair, Leo Anthony, Harry Lozon and others who played against RPI, respectively, their hard-fought victories over RPI should count in the series records.
“Hate” was a word one player used to describe the current series.
I prefer the way VCU coach Mike Rhoades described it, as two very good universities and good basketball programs that respect each other and want to win this game every year.
Stith had a look of utter joy after the dunked the final points of the game as the crowd stood and cheered.
“Last year we had an 11-point lead and let it get away,” Stith said. “We played so poorly offensively.
“I knew I had to just keep shooting in the second half. If you get good shots, you just keep shooting and eventually they’ll begin to fall.
“Their press didn’t affect us at all. We played our game.”
Jones said during shootaround practice Wednesday morning, he tried to tell the players what they were in for. So many players are newcomers, he said.
“I told them I’m not sure you guys understand what you’re getting into,” he said. “Make sure you’re ready. You’re going to be playing at a different level.
“Even for a guy like Ahmad, who’s from Atlanta, he didn’t realize what a big rivalry it was, that how special it was, until he got here.
“Just like me. When I was at Virginia and American, I had no idea. But when you get here, you very quickly find out what’s at stake, and what it means to a whole lot of people.”
And has for a long, long time.