NORFOLK -- The harsh lessons continue for an Old Dominion team that’s typically long on effort, but short on experience and execution.
Three days after Richmond handed the Monarchs their worst home loss at the Constant Center, rival VCU blitzed early and kept them at arm’s length on the way to an 83-70 win Friday.
“We’re going through a very challenging period,” ODU coach Blaine Taylor said after the Monarchs’ seventh consecutive loss dropped them to 1-8. “We had spirited practices this week, and I think we ran into two teams this week that are veteran teams that played good games.
“One of the things we’re having a difficult time with is defending to the level that we have come to expect around here. We’ve got marquee players on other teams that are having career nights against us. It’s making it very, very hard on us.”
The culprits Friday were VCU senior wing Troy Daniels, who tied the school record with eight 3-pointers on the way to a career-best 24 points, and sophomore Treveon Graham, whose 23 points were three shy of his career high.
“Just following the process,” Daniels said. “No matter what defense they were playing, just shoot it the right way, and I knew my teammates were going to find me if I was open, so you’ve got to be ready to shoot, and that’s what I was tonight.”
Daniels found spaces against ODU’s zone defense, while Graham found seams to penetrate for an array of shots.
Briante Weber, subbing for the recovering Darius Theus at point guard, filled up the box score. He finished with eight points, nine rebounds, 10 assists, five steals and just one turnover in 31 minutes. Rob Brandenberg complemented his mates with nine points, including five straight during a key stretch of the second half when ODU threatened.
“We missed some free throws, we missed some easy shots,” Taylor said. “We’re developing offensively. I thought the second half, you look at a better shooting percentage. I thought we handled their pressure in the backcourt – we really didn’t get turned over inbounding the ball or bringing it up. Where we had problems, and this is something we worked on, is when we had opportunities in the frontcourt, taking advantage of an open-court play. That’s something we’ve got to get better at.”
DeShawn Painter played his best game as a Monarch, with 26 points and 10 rebounds. The effort by the senior transfer from North Carolina State keyed a 43-32 rebound edge that included 20 offensive boards that resulted in 17 second-chance points.
“It was a good performance,” Painter said, “but it just wasn’t enough. If you have a good performance, but with no win, you don’t feel very good.”
VCU took control in the first half with a 22-4 run that featured nine points from Graham and three Daniels 3-pointers. Daniels’ final trey gave the Rams a 27-12 lead with 8 1/2 minutes remaining.
VCU’s lead fluctuated between nine and 20 points the remainder of the half, and the Rams went to the locker room with a 43-30 lead. Foul trouble hindered the Rams, causing Coach Shaka Smart to call off his press and rely on half-court havoc.
ODU was unable to make much of a dent at the foul line, hitting only half of its 16 free throws. The Monarchs had an 11-rebound edge, but converted nine offensive boards into only five second-chance points.
VCU pushed the lead to 20 early in the second half before ODU battled back. The Monarchs were within 65-53 on two Painter free throws, and Dimitri Batten just missed a 3-pointer from the left wing that would have cut the margin to single digits.
Brandenberg hustled down to the other end and drove for a layup. On ODU’s next possession, Weber deflected the ball beyond the top of the key, then raced to save it before it went out of bounds. Brandenberg chased it down in the left corner, gathered himself and buried a 3-pointer that pushed the margin to 70-53.
“We played well in spurts,” Smart said. “We still have not developed a killer instinct necessary to put teams away. That’s something we’ll continue to work on. Allowing 70 points is too much for us. We’re going to get back to basics over the next week, before our next game, and get better.”
That’s ODU’s aim, as well, before next Friday’s home game against Central Florida. Though the Monarchs have much further to go.
“We did fight to the end and there were some encouraging things,” Taylor said. “But the fact is, we’re playing all these veteran teams. I told the kids in the locker room, I says, 'I don’t know what’s going to happen in the CAA race, but it can’t be harder than what we’re going through now.' ”Copyright © 2015, CT Now