Dec. 4, 2009
16th blog: Richmond wrap - don't despair Monarch fans, there's lots to be excited about
By Brendan O'Hallarn
If you read this blog, you probably follow the ODU Monarchs men's team. If you follow the ODU Monarchs men's team, there's a good chance you're a fan. If you're a fan, you're likely a little down right now.
Buck up Monarch fans. Your embedded blogger is going to give you seven reasons to be excited about the Monarchs right now, despite the fact the team has lost three straight.
1. I watched them in the weight room on Thursday morning. The morning after a heartbreaking defeat at Richmond, the entire Monarchs team was in the weight room, wearing their "SS" singlets (''SS" stands for Selection Sunday), pushing weights enthusiastically. I didn't see any laughing, but I didn't see any hanging heads, either. There was work to do. In the middle of the players stood John Richardson, the team assistant who oversees strength and conditioning. He looked like he was ready to polish off a few reps himself as he looked around the room. "Sometimes it's good the next day to get in here," he said. "You want to remember exactly how you felt when that horn went at the end of the game. With every rep you say to yourself '67-60' (Wednesday's score). You don't ever want to feel like that, so it pushes you to work harder."
2. Head coach Blaine Taylor peeled paint at practice on Monday and Tuesday. I've played enough ball that I knew the practice you want to see is the one right after a disappointing loss. Sure enough, Taylor - who has a near perfect memory of each instance his players make mistakes on the court - reminded them of that, in colorful language. Repeatedly. This is not a coaching staff that is taking the recent struggles lightly.
3. Ben Finney, the player who appears to hate to lose the most, is right there with Coach Taylor. After Tuesday's physical, demanding practice, the junior forward tried to put the disappointing losses in Texas in perspective. "Going down to Texas and playing those good teams, we could have beaten them, but on the other side, I look at it as it's good that we lost early, and we use that as a measuring stick and we know where we have to go from there," Finney said. I called out his fib. It kills you to lose, doesn't it? "Well yeah. I hate it," Finney agreed. The noted tough guy also has no trouble hearing from Taylor, loudly, when things don't go the team's way. "I knew Coach Taylor was going to come out and get into it, but that's because he cares. If he didn't care, he wouldn't say anything."
4. The team put a real solid game plan together for Richmond. Again, I watched two days of practice before the game. For the entire first half, the various zone looks the Monarchs threw at Richmond took the Spiders' impressive guard tandem of Kevin Anderson and David Gonzalvez out of the rhythm they were in during the South Padre Island Invitational, a tournament Richmond won. In the second half, unfortunately, the flood gates opened. Richmond opened the half on a 15-1 run, and followed with a 15-4 run later in the frame. "Some of our best defenders are out top, and I thought we just relaxed about half a heartbeat, and that kind of opened things up," Taylor said. The Spiders' fantastic shooting was helped by some early fouls on the Monarchs. Without shooting five for seven from three-point range, and a crazy 16 for 18 from the foul line, there's no way Richmond wins that game.
5. The bench showed up. Richmond had five scorers in double digits in the win. However, those five players accounted for almost all of the Spiders' points. With the Monarchs, you never know who's going to contribute. On Wednesdsay, guard Trian Iliadis scored eight points with some aggressive drives to the basket, and forward Keyon Carter showed off one of the prettiest three-point shots in the conference, hitting two long ones.
6. I talked with Marsharee Neely after the game, ODU guard and frequent occupant of Blaine Taylor's doghouse over the past three-plus seasons. The guy should bottle his optimism and sell it. The team had come off the court less than half an hour ago after a tough loss, had just finished a soul-baring heart-to-heart in the dressing room, and here's Neely talking about how important it is for the team to stay positive. "It's my job now to keep my teammates up, keep their spirits up, keep reminding them how good they are," Neely said. "Reminding them of their wrongs, but helping correct them as best they can." Neely expects a few up and downs along the way. "From childhood, from where I'm from, you're going to have ups and downs. The main thing is to stay positive, talk positive, always let people that even though you're going through a lot, you're going to make it." Actually, I think Marsharee Neely should be giving the pep talks to Monarch fans.
7. Our conference schedule opens on Saturday. ODU is a proud member of the Colonial Athletic Association. Our direct ticket to the NCAA Tournament is punched through the CAA Championship in Richmond, the first weekend in March. This team hates to lose, but Saturday's game against Delaware is the first one in conference that counts. The night before we lost to Richmond, Delaware fell to not-so-imposing Delaware State. Sounds like it's time to start another win streak.
Brendan's Blog 46