Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hislop comes through in final seconds to lift JMU over ODU

Sometimes a game leaves you speechless. We've seen lots of them between Old Dominion and James Madison. Games where Meredith Alexis comes out of the tunnel pounding her chest. Games where T.J. Jordan has drained 3-pointers from impossible angles. OT games. CAA championships.

No title was on the line this time, yet Wednesday's game was nothing short of a thriller. A 55-all tie was broken with Tarik Hislop's 8-footer with 3 seconds on the clock. Hislop  had shot the ball 19 times prior to that, misfiring on 18 of those shots.

Dukes win 57-55 -- the sixth time they have beaten ODU in the last nine games the teams have played.

This is the same JMU team that took Delaware to the wire on Sunday before falling 72-65, but for much of the night, this one looked to belong to an ODU team that came out with an energy that the Dukes lacked for the first 30 minutes. The Lady Monarchs scored 36 first-half points against a defense that Kenny Brooks has praised as his best. ODU looked to be en route to Karen Barefoot's finest victory as the Lady Monarchs' coach.

It was only two weeks ago when these Dukes trailed William and Mary by 10 at Kaplan Arena and clawed their way back, denying the Tribe all but one field goal in the final 10 minutes. They didn't have quite the same clamp on ODU, but the Lady Monarchs offense fizzled in the second half, outscored 31-19. Overpassing, poor shooting and turnovers -- the last of which came with the game tied at 55 and 14 seconds left -- earned Hislop her shot. Coaches tell you to keep shooting, but you wonder? Did she think it was going in?

Lewis heaved up a prayer before the buzzer that didn't fall. Lewis finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists.

Lots of storylines here including what a loss might have cost the Dukes come NCAA Tournament time, but how about Hislop, whose miserable 39 minutes and 57 seconds couldn't have ended any better? And kudos to Kirby Burkholder, whose 20 points (courtesy of a career high-tying 6 3-pointers) saved JMU when nobody else could find the basket.

For ODU, another home loss stings; any loss to JMU hurts a little more. Somehow they need to find a way to adjust to the adjustments teams are making in the halftime locker room to subdue their offense. But we can't help but be impressed, particularly by the reigning CAA Rookie of the Week Ashley Betz-White. The numbers don't add up; the freshman scored 5, didn't make a 3 in five attempts and turned it over eight times. But 9 rebounds for a kid who's the smallest on the floor? And what about the way she popped up after taking a blow to the head that left us dizzy? Commendable toughness for a freshman being asked to carry an extremely heavy load.

All in all, a fitting chapter in what has long been the CAA's fiercest rivalry. Can't wait for the next installment.


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