Sunday, March 11, 2012

Giant Bazemore (Recap of Delaware - ODU CAA Quarterfinal)

In November 2010, I wrote an article for my web site on Old Dominion called "The Ground and Pound of College Basketball".  In that article, I talked about how Coach Blaine Taylor has a "philosophy of inside play, suffocating defense and depth that grinds opponents down".  The Monarchs are a team that usually has a nine-ten man rotation that wears opponents down over the span of forty minutes.  The games are generally low scoring, as Old Dominion has been one of the better scoring defensive teams in the CAA the past several seasons.

So when fourth seeded ODU took on fifth seeded Delaware in the second game of the afternoon quarterfinal session, most people expected a repeat of the first quarterfinal game between UNCW and Drexel, won by the Dragons 59-47.  Everyone that covers CAA basketball (otherwise known as #CAAHoops on Twitter) figured on a low scoring, physical affair.  What we all got was completely different.

In one of the funnier moments of the tournament, the Delaware pep band was playing Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" when the Blue Hens came out onto the court.  After a few seconds, the band changed to the Delaware fight song.  But the Immigrant Song sounded more ominous, so they should have stuck with it.

Unfortunately, there was no one in the Delaware student section to see it, outside of the Delaware cheerleaders, dance team and mascot.  It was incredibly disappointing to see, considering the Blue Hens had went 12-6 in conference during the season.  Since the entire starting five is back next season and as Defiantly Dutch notes "the band does killer versions of Foo Fighters' songs", one can hope that there will be a lot better student section attendance at next year's CAA Tournament.

The Old Dominion student section fans made up for the Delaware Student section fans.  First, they started a huge ODU chant three minutes before tip off.  But the creme de la creme was a giant Kent Bazemore cardboard cutout that spanned half the student section.  "Giant Bazemore" feature Kent with his two long arms and in each hand, he was palming a basketball.  It was really cool to see in person.

The first twelve minutes would be very entertaining. The Monarchs quickly went out to a 5-0 lead. But just as quickly, their starting forward Chris Cooper picked up two fouls as well. The Blue Hens responded with an 8-2 spurt to take an 8-7 lead.  Nick Wright hit a three point play to put the Monarchs back up 10-8.  Delaware's  Jamelle Hagins tied the score at ten. But ODU regained the lead 12-10 on a Donte Hill layup. The Monarchs would hold the lead, up 29-24 with just eight minutes left in the half.

Amazingly, the last eight minutes of the half would be even more exciting than the first twelve minutes.  The Blue Hens scored the next six points, including a three by Kyle Anderson, to take a 30-29 lead.  But after Chris Cooper hit one of two free throws, "Regular Size Bazemore" nailed a three pointer to put the Monarchs back up 33-30.

This would become a common theme as Delaware would tie, take the lead, only to see ODU tie and take the lead.  There were seven ties and ten lead changes in the first half.  The Monarchs would finally score eight of the last ten poinfs of the half as "Regular Size Bazemore" buried a three pointer from long beyond NBA range, then hit an old fashioned three pointer to put ODU up 47-42 at the half.

It was the most exciting first half of the tournament.  Three Monarchs were already in double figures in scoring at the half. Bazemore scored fifteen first half points.  Devon Saddler led Delaware with eleven points.  ODU was six of ten from beyond the arc while Delaware was four of eleven.  The other stats were pretty similar.   The question was, could both teams keep up this frenetic pace for another twenty minutes.

It turned out one of the two teams could.  The Monarchs picked up right where they left off as they hit five of their first six shots. Bazemore buried another three pointer in the 13-4 run that put ODU up 60-46 with fourteen minutes left in the game. All that Delaware could do during that time was for the Blue Hen mascot to put a box on his head.  They didn't have anything to compare with "Giant Bazemore" or "Regular Size Bazemore" for that matter.  The best they could do was the pep band playing the "Sanford and Son" theme song, which was quite good.

Much to their credit, the Blue Hens didn't give up.  They shot forty seven percent from the field in the second half.  Saddler scored another twelve points on five of seven shooting.  But he also committed five second half turnovers.  That helped to lead to ten points off turnovers for the Monarchs.

Despite their pep band trying to rally the team to the theme song of the "Underdog" TV show, the problem for Delaware was that as well as they shot the ball, ODU was even shooting the ball better in the second half. The Monarchs shot forty eight percent in the second half.  Cooper had twelve second half points while "Regular Size Bazemore" had nine points.   Old Dominion would go onto win the game 88-74.

The eighty eight points was their highest output since they scored nine eight points vs. Longwood in November of 2009. "Regular Size Bazemore" nearly had a double double with twenty four points and nine rebounds.  He also added four assists.  Bazemore was one of five Monarchs in double figures in scoring.

After the game, ODU coach Blaine Taylor was asked if he was concerned that his team could play at that pace.  He responded that he "actually wanted to play faster", which stunned the media in the conference room.  Most of us were used to seeing the "Ground and Pound" Monarchs.

Perhaps it was "Giant Bazemore" that inspired Taylor to have his team play that way.  It certainly worked for "Regular Size Bazemore".  He certainly played like a giant in this game.

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