Trey Freeman led all scorers with 22 points Monday night as Old Dominion took third place in the 15th Paradise Jam, knocking off Gardner-Webb 58-46 at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
But it might have been what Freeman did defensively that made the difference between the Monarchs heading back home with a 4-1 record and not a 3-2 mark.
Assigned to cover point guard Tyler Strange, the reigning Big South Conference Player of the Week, Freeman kept Strange scoreless in 37 minutes.
Strange missed all 11 shots, including seven from 3-point range.
“I just tried to trail the screens and be in good position,” Freeman said when asked how he defended Strange. “I didn’t try to make any home run plays. My teammates had my back and we built a wall around the basket.”
A combination of solid Old Dominion defense and fatigue — it was the third game in four days for both teams — led to a miserable shooting performance for the Bulldogs (2-3). They sank just 16 of 55 from the field and were 6 of 24 on 3-pointers.
Monarchs coach Jeff Jones praised his team’s defense, although he admitted Gardner-Webb missed some open looks.
“That was two really tired basketball teams,” Jones said. “Strange was 0 for 11, and some of that was fatigue, but we played pretty good defense. He had two assists, so he didn’t get into the lane and kick it out to teammates. We did a good job with that.”
Old Dominion wasn’t much better offensively, canning just 38.9 percent of its shots and not getting a field goal from preseason All-Conference USA pick Aaron Bacote for the second straight game. Bacote managed just four points, all at the foul line in the last minute after the game had been decided.
But with Freeman and forward Richard Ross (12 points, seven rebounds) carrying the scoring load, Bacote’s slump didn’t matter in this one. The Monarchs also avoided the turnovers which killed them in Sunday night’s 64-45 loss to Illinois State, committing only seven.
They had 13 against Illinois State, giving up 20 points.
“We took care of the ball and we got good shots,” Jones said. “We didn’t make a lot of them, but we did get good shots.”
The Bulldogs led 12-4 after a tip-in by center Tyrell Nelson with 12:40 left in the first half, but Old Dominion forged a 16-16 tie when reserve guard Ambrose Mosley stuck a 3-pointer. Guard Jordan Baker capped a 9-0 run with a tip in at the 4:22 mark, giving the Monarchs a 25-19 lead.
Ahead 28-26 at halftime, Old Dominion scored 10 straight points to grab a 40-29 advantage with 13:27 left on Freeman’s jumper. But Gardner-Webb slowly climbed back into contention, pulling within 48-44 when guard Adonis Burbage connected on a 3 with 4:26 remaining.
However, Freeman ended that run with a pullup jumper at the 2:31 mark, starting a game-clinching 10-0 spurt.
Forward Jerome Webb led the Bulldogs with an 11-point, 12-rebound double-double, enabling them to win the rebounding battle 41-36. Burbage contributed 10 points before fouling out.
But with Freeman scoring and defending, the Monarchs made sure their long trek home would be a happy one.
“Everybody’s tired,” Freeman said. “We’re just happy we fought through and got the victory.”
NOTES: This is only the second meeting ever between Gardner-Webb and Old Dominion. The Monarchs won the first game back in 2000. … Bulldogs F Jerome Webb entered the game second in school history in free throw attempts with 335, just 48 behind Thomas Sanders, who graduated in 2008. … Old Dominion returns home Saturday to host old CAA rival VCU at 2 p.m. in Constant Center.
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