Old Dominion doesn't need to worry about the bubble any longer. The Monarchs defeated William & Mary, 60-53, to grab the CAA Tournament crown on Monday night in Richmond, punching a well-earned ticket to the NCAA Tournament. And from Gainesville to Seattle, teams hoping to secure one of the final at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament are celebrating their victory.
Like so many of the games at this year's CAA Tournament, this contest was defined by runs. Hot shooting allowed the Monarchs to jump out to a 27-14 lead with under eight minutes left in the first half. However, the field goal percentages evened out as the opening period went on, so the Tribe were able to cut the lead to 31-24 by the break.
Things looked to be over early in the second, as the Monarchs hit their first four field goals of the period to build a 15-point advantage with 15:56 left in the half. For the next five minutes, Old Dominion only managed two Gerald Lee free throws, but the Tribe couldn't capitalize, as they could only cut the deficit to eight.
With a minute left, William & Mary got within five for the second time in the half, thanks to a Danny Sumner three. However, the Tribe missed five three-point attempts in the dying moments. In that same time, the Monarchs struggled to ice the game from the foul line, only converting four of eight free throws. Two from Frank Hassell with 29 seconds left and one from Lee with seven seconds remaining were enough in the end.
Lee claimed Tournament Most Valuable Player honors despite only managing nine points and four rebounds in the final. Darius James led the Monarchs with 12 points, as he went three-for-five from beyond the arc, starting the scoring in each half with a triple. Kent Bazemore added 10, while Ben Finney just missed a double-double, as he scored nine and grabbed eight boards.
The Tribe's Sumner led all scorers with 19, including two monstrous dunks in the middle of the second half and five threes. David Schneider, on the other hand, had an off night, as he was just two-for-11 from downtown. His problems reflected the team's issues, as William & Mary made only nine of 31 threes on the night.
The Monarchs project as a 10 to 12 seed in the NCAAs, where they will be a handful for their opponent, thanks to the presence of Gerald Lee. William & Mary is likely to head to the NIT, as early season wins at Wake Forest and Maryland were offset by losses to Iona, James Madison, UNC Wilmington and Towson.