FRISCO, TX —
ODU 61 UAB 59
We have our final teams. Old Dominion played the same tune as the night before: a missed free throw from the other team’s best player, followed by a clutch three points (traditional, or from distance) by one of their top three scorers.
BJ Stith and Ahmad Caver struggled in this one, but like the quarterfinal vs Tech, they both came up big when it mattered. Caver hit a huge three, and made the big assist to Green for the bucket that put them ahead.
For Zack Bryant, on his way to a legendary performance, it was heartbreaking in its cruel finish. He had dominated his matchup with Caver until the final few possessions when he missed two of three free throws and then turned the ball over while looking for a streaking Makhtar Gueye in the final seconds.
The pass was too strong and that was that.
Bryant finished with 23 points on 10/14 shooting including some incredible buckets where he got huge steals. Ultimately it was his 2/7 performance from the line that mattered most.
Ahmad Caver finished with 11 on 3/15 sooting, Xavier Green with 21 on 8/12 including the game-winner bucket. BJ Stith struggled but managed a big 13 points, including 3/5 from distance. Stith and Caver hit two big threes in the final 5 minutes. Stith had a block, rebound, offensive rebound off a Caver layup off that block on UAB Lewis Sullivan and a put back.
Caver also added some clutch free throws that made it a 1 point game before Zack Bryant missed his fateful FT attempt.
WKU 70 USM 59
In the second semi-final, it was WKU handling business the same kind of way: with defense and clutch shot-making by their stars. Tavieon Hollingsworth had 17 and Josh Anderson 18 — despite six turnovers — while star big man Charles Bassey added 10 points, including 6 points, 6 rebounds (two offensive) and an assist for a big three pointer to spark two 8-0 runs for WKU.
Southern Miss did not get much from LaDavius Draine, only adding 6 points on 2/8 sooting including 2/6 from 3. He also missed two wide-open shots when the clock was under a minute that might have made it interesting but was a long-shot from being a comeback-maker.
Tyree Griffin went 7/13 for 19 points and 4 assists but added 8 turnovers and some bad misses late. He aired a midrange jumper that could have cut the lead to two possessions. Cortez Edwards also struggled against the WKU length, going 4/9 for 10 points. He also had a couple of shots late that went long.
USM went through three or four droughts of 3+ minutes and WKU would go on a 8-0 run. It happened multiple times. Through all that, USM stayed in it and led by as many as 7 at one point and for 20:02 overall. Ultimately USM couldn’t keep WKU out of the point — 32 points in the paint for the Toppers and allowed 18 second-chance pants.
The number 1 and number 2 teams are in the final, something we expected but kind of doubted considering the strange season this league gave us.