Thursday, November 24, 2011

Allison rescues ODU in Paradise Jam opener

Old Dominion 77, Alabama 76

Shakeva Richards to Becca Allison?

Not exactly the combination we were expecting for a game-winning sequence. But there were reasons why these two players made their debuts in the starting lineup Thursday. And with the game on the line, Richards dribbled the length of the court and found Allison, who squeezed off a jumper at the edge of the lane with 1.2 seconds left to give ODU the last laugh in an entertaining, back-and-forth Paradise Jam opener in the Virgin Islands.

The victory was the first at ODU for new head coach Karen Barefoot.

Tia Lewis, who called out her upperclassmen teammates after Sunday's loss to Richmond, walked the walk of a team leader Thursday with a career-high 27 points. Freshman Ashley Betz-White added 20 points, including 16 in just 9 first-half minutes during which she was 3-for-3 from the field, 2-for-2 from 3-point range and 8-for-8 from the line.

ODU's positive contributions didn't stop there. Jackie Cook had 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Jo Guilford chipped in 6 points, 4 assists and 3 steals. Richards had 8 points and 3 of ODU's 5 blocks. And Allison had 5 points, 4 assists and, of course, ice water in her veins when everything was at stake.

The Lady Monarchs (1-4) attacked Alabama's pressure with ease during a first half in which they shot a ridiculous 68 percent from the field and led by 14 points with less than four minutes to go until intermission. But things went haywire when Betz-White went to the bench with her second foul, and the Crimson Tide (3-2) stormed back to trail by just 46-44 at the break.

The two teams traded the advantage throughout the second half. A Lewis layup gave ODU a 74-70 lead with 2:31 left, but Alabama chipped away until pulling even at 75 with 36 seconds left. Lewis couldn't connect at the other end, and her foul on the rebound with 11 seconds to go put Alabama's Erin Hogue at the line. But Hogue made just 1 of 2, setting the stage for Richards' length-of-the-court foray and Allison's game-winning dagger.

It's easy to knock these Lady Monarchs for who they don't have and what they can't do. But on Thanksgiving Day, the players showed there's still a lot they can do. And our favorite characteristic is this group's willingness and determination to play through mistakes (28 turnovers) and adversity while never giving up the fight. Even in their losses, this trait was evident. And Thursday, if paid off in a win.

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