Nov. 19, 2005 Coming to cheer on their hometown teams, basketball fans from across the mainland half filled UVIs Sports and Fitness Center Friday night, as this years Paradise Jam Tournament kicked off with two action-packed games.
The Monarchs from Old Dominion University, playing against the University of Georgia Bulldogs, started out the evening well, as their huge fan base waved pom-poms and flags while screaming at players from the stands. Some family and friends even wore costumes and painted their faces in the schools colors.
Old Dominion, currently one of the strongest in the NCAA, set a record this year for the most wins in their school's history. Four out of five of the team's starters returned for the Paradise Jam, including Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year Alex Loughton, a center now in his senior year.
The veteran team started Fridays game with a half-court press, causing the young Bulldog team, with its four sophomore starters, to make many turnovers. The errors allowed the Monarchs to jump out to a quick 23-16 lead in the beginning of the first half. Georgia didnt allow the Monarchs to extend the lead much further, however, as freshman forward Terrance Woodbury came into the game and gave his team a spark off the bench by scoring 10 first-half points.
With 40 seconds left in the half, Georgias Sundiara Gaines tied the score at 34.
In the second half both teams picked up their defense, causing each team to make numerous turnovers. The intensity in the game showed when the Monarchs Younes Idrissi committed a hard foul on Georgia player Brandon Johnson, forcing the teams to be separated by the referee. A fan in the stands added to the tension in the gym by shouting to Old Dominion players, "Come on you guys, show them [Georgia] you want it more."
In the clutch, Georgias players showed their lack of experience on the court as Old Dominions pressure defense and constant fast breaks allowed them to regain the momentum and eventually defeat the Bulldogs by a final score of 74-65.
Leading scorers for Georgia were Gaines with 15 points, as well as Levi Stukes and Woodbury who followed with 14 points each. Old Dominions Valdas Vasylius led his team with 19 points, followed by Johnson and Drew Williams with 12 points each.
In the second game, the Wisconsin University Badgers took on the Norfolk State Spartans in the feature event of the night. Wisconsin fans came in hordes as tip-off time drew near. Lining both sides of the court, they dressed in Badger red, with some wearing novelty basketball hats. Coming off last season as the tenth best college team in the nation, the Badgers were clearly the heavy favorites.
Norfolk State was not as well represented on Friday night, with only a handful of people cheering on players from the stands.
The game started at a frantic pace, with Norfolk State taking an early 7-2 lead. However, this would be the biggest lead the team would see all night, as Wisconsin, lead by junior center Brian Butch, dominated the Spartans for the remainder of the game.
Butch led all scores with 23 points, shooting 9-12 with three three-pointers. At half time, it was clear that Norfolk State would be no competition for the Badgers, who had a 40-25 lead.
In the second half, Wisconsin kept it rolling, taking a 61-45 lead with 8:45 left in the game. During this stretch, Butch topped off the Badgers run with a dunk and a three-pointer in consecutive trips down the court.
Norfolk States Calvin Brown and Tony Murphy were the only rays of light on their teams cloudy day — each put up 14 points to lead the Spartans in scoring.
However, it wasnt enough to bring the Spartans back as they ended the game with a final score of 80-51 in favor of Wisconsin.
Games continue at the Fitness Center on Saturday evening with Old Dominion facing off against Fordham Universitys Rams at 7 p.m., and Wisconsin playing Eastern Kentuckys Colonels.
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