NORFOLK This was a fitting way for Blaine Taylor to make history.
Taylor became Old Dominion's all-time winningest basketball coach with a 49-34 victory against Northeastern on Wednesday night that embodied the Monarchs' grinding, defense-first style. ODU held Northeastern to the fewest points scored in the 9-year-old Constant Center in Taylor's record-breaking win.
"I do think it's probably symbolic, a little bit, of our style," Taylor said. "Before games, we always say it kind of starts with defense with us. It's where we establish ourself on the court and our identity."
Taylor, in his 10th season at ODU, is now 199-106, eclipsing Bud Metheny, who was 198-163 in 17 years of coaching Monarch hoops.
ODU (11-3, 2-1 CAA) held Northeastern (4-10, 0-3 CAA), averaging 65.7 points but without leading scorer Chaisson Allen, to 16 first-half points and 33 percent shooting. That bettered the 21.7 percent Toledo managed against ODU on Nov. 16, 2007, but the Huskies managed one less point than the Rockets.
Taylor waved to the cheering crowd while blue-and-white confetti fell from the ceiling and photographers jostled for perfect-shot position after the final buzzer.
"It's real special," said junior swingman Kent Bazemore, who had seven points and 11 of ODU's 17 assists on 19 shot attempts. "Anything that I'm a part of with him is real special. He's one of the - well, probably the best coach I've ever had, period. I've had a lot of coaches that told me a lot of things, but he really got the best out of me."
Northeastern suffered a 10:30 scoring drought in the first half, during which the two teams combined to score 42 points. The Huskies, with Allen (16.3 points per game, 5.8 rebounds) out with a hamstring injury, shot 30 percent (6-of-20) in the first half. Senior forward Frank Hassell, who finished with a game-high 16 points and eight rebounds, scored 10 of ODU's first 12 points. The rest of the team was 1-for-9 in the opening 10 minutes, with the lone made basket a dunk by Bazemore off Trian Iliadis' alley-oop.
Hassell was 7-for-7 from the floor, while Iliadis was 4-for-4, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range. Their teammates went 8-for-29.
Northeastern, which trailed by as many as 14, closed within 30-26 with 10:15 to play before Iliadis hit a 3-pointer to push the Monarchs' lead to seven. The lead reached double digits again with 8:26 remaining on two free throws from Bazemore, who came up with a steal with the Huskies four seconds from their third shot clock violation and was fouled on a solo breakaway.
"That stretch there, I can say we wore them down a little bit," Bazemore said. "We played a lot of guys a lot of minutes, and it gets to a point in the game where the other team starts to crack."
Back-to-back buckets from Hassell stretched ODU's advantage to 41-26 with 6:55 left, and consecutive 3-pointers from Illiadis made it 49-29 with 3:47 to go.
"The theme of the day was grinding it out," Taylor said. "They make you grind. … They kept switching things up every way you could, and I thought we did a great job of adjusting, (and) once we had a little bit of a lead, kind of taking advantage of things and widening it out."
The Huskies were the last team to beat the Monarchs at home, winning 58-42 at the Constant Center on Jan. 24, 2009, before Georgetown snapped ODU's 23-game home winning streak in the Nov. 12 season-opener.
"It's a very, very stingy defensive team, a terrific rebounding team, and just a well-coached team that executes from buzzer to buzzer," Northeastern coach Bill Coen said. "You know when you coach against Blaine Taylor that his team is going to be extremely well-prepared. They're going to play physical. They're going to defend and contest shots. They're going to rebound, and they're going to share the ball."
Taylor's historic win came after the Monarchs held off Towson 51-47 on the road on Monday. Taylor is one of two ODU coaches, along with Sonny Allen, to have five seasons with 20 or more wins.
"You look at the people – somebody like Bud Metheny, or (former Monarchs coach) Paul Webb or Sonny, people that I revere so much," Taylor said. "It's just kind of humbling to have your name mentioned in the same sentence."