CHAMPIONSHIP BOUND: Freemanís 42 Points Lifts ODU to 89-77 Win Over WKU
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Trey Freeman set a Conference USA Tournament record with 42 points to lift the Old Dominion men’s basketball team (22-12) over Western Kentucky (18-16) by an 89-77 score in the semifinals of the 2016 C-USA Tournament on Friday afternoon at Legacy Arena. The Monarchs will face Middle Tennessee on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1 (FS1); the winner will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. ODU has now won seven straight games and 12 out of its last 14.
The Hilltoppers cut into their deficit with a 7-0 run, making it a one-point ballgame (68-67) with 4:03 remaining in regulation, before Old Dominion outscored Western Kentucky 21-10 the rest of the way to claim the 89-77 victory on Friday afternoon in Birmingham.
Freeman scored the most points by an ODU player in a Division I postseason game, previously held by Chris Gatling with 36 in 1991 SBC Tournament. 34 of Freeman’s career-high 42 came in the second half. Freeman also set a C-USA Tournament single-game record for made field goals with 15. For the game, Freeman went 15-25 from the floor, 4-4 from three and 8-8 from the free-throw line. Freeman also grabbed four rebounds and dished out three assists.
“The first half Aaron [Bacote] carried us offensively, but I tried to stay aggressive and keep my faith in myself,” said Freeman. “You’re going to miss shots in games, the key isn’t to get down. It’s a dream to play in the NCAA Tournament, and so it is a blessing to have a chance to play for a shot to play in the tournament.”
Aaron Bacote finished the contest with 18 points (2-3 3PT, 4-5 FT), four rebounds and three assists. Brandan Stith went for double-double consisting of 14 points on 4-5 shooting from the floor and 13 rebounds. Denzell Taylor grabbed seven rebounds to compliment four assists, two points, one block and one steal. Jordan Baker dished out a team-high five assists.
“We were fortunate that we were able to fight against Western [Kentucky] and that Trey [Freeman] had the game he did,” said ODU head coach Jeff Jones. “Western Kentucky has a staggered high ball screen and adjusting how we were going to guard that was difficult. Denzell Taylor does a good job for us in stopping people when they get hot. Seeing a 16-rebound differential is a big stat and to not just win the battle on the boards, but to win it by that much, is a big deal.”
For the game, ODU shot 57.4% (31-54) from the floor, 70% (7-10) from three and 74.1% (20-27) from the charity stripe. Old Dominion outrebounded Western Kentucky 38-22 for the game.
“Trey [Freeman] played unbelievable,” said Bacote. “Thirty-four points in a half is a good tournament for some people. It was an outstanding performance. He puts in a lot of work, so it’s nice to see it pay enough. To see how far this team has come since my freshman year, where we went 5-25, we have an opportunity to play for a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. Tomorrow’s game is a blessing.”
WKU was led by Aaron Cosby’s 21 points. Also in double-figures for the Hilltoppers were Nigel Snipers (18 points, 6-11 3PT), Frederik Edmond (14 points, six rebounds and six assists) and Justin Johnson (12 points and five rebounds).
The Monarchs used a 6-0 run to jump out to an early 8-4 advantage at the 13:54 mark of the first half. An 8-0 Hilltopper run lifted WKU to a 27-23 lead at the 3:50 mark.
Western Kentucky’s Nigel Snipes connected on his fourth three-pointer right before halftime to give the Hilltoppers a 35-32 lead at the break. Snipes’ 12 points led all scorers in the opening 20 minutes of action.
Trey Freeman scored 10 first half points, while Brandan Stith grabbed a half-high six rebounds. The Monarchs held advantages in rebounds (17-10) and second chance points (9-2). WKU’s bench outscored ODU’s 17-8 in the first half.
Old Dominion went on a 6-0 run to claim a 46-40 lead with 13:02 to play in the second half, before the Monarchs extended its lead after connecting on eight straight field goals to capture a 56-46 advantage at the 10:25 mark.
Friday's win marked the third time that Monarchs defeated Western Kentucky this season.
Freeman’s 34 points in the second half would actually rank sixth for most points in a C-USA Tournament game by itself. The old record was 40 by Marshall’s DeAndre Kane in 2012 and the regulation record was 37 by Larry Hughes of Saint Louis in 1998.
Old Dominion becomes the ﬁrst school since Louisville in 2005 to have its men’s team and its women’s team play in the C-USA Championship title game in the same season. Cincinnati is the only school to win both titles in the same year, taking both in 2002.
ODU will be attempting to become the ﬁfth team in C-USA Championship history to win four games in four days to win the title (Houston in 2010, Saint Louis in 2000, Charlotte in 1999 and Marquette in 1997).
The last time the Old Dominion men and women’s teams were both in conference tournament title games was in the 2010 CAA Championships.
Trey Freeman has scored at least 25 points in all three C-USA Championship games this week. Freeman has been the game’s leading scorer in 17 of the past 19 games.
This was just the third time that ODU has won this season when trailing at halftime. The Monarchs are now 3-9 the year when trailing at the break.
The Monarchs’ 89 points were the most in a game at the C-USA Championship since Memphis scored 91 in double-overtime of the 2013 title game vs. Southern Miss. It Is the most in regulation since Marshall scored 97 vs. Houston on March 5, 2011.
Saturday’s Championship will air across the Commonwealth on ESPN Radio 94.1 in Hampton Roads, Sports FM 100.5 in Central Virginia and WLVA 94.1 and FOX Sports 580 in Lynchburg.
(Ted Alexander and Dave Twardzik’s live pregame show begins at 2:00 p.m. EST)
Following Saturday's contest, fans can tune into all post-game press conferences, courtesy of the C-USA Digital Network.
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