Gerald Lee limped to the postgame interview room, a reflection of his physical condition and symbolic of Old Dominion's offensive mojo on a dispiriting Sunday afternoon in Monarch Land.
Beyond that, in no particular order, there was Eric Maynor.
The inability to make a jump shot.
Lee's balky left ankle.
Failure to get past the CAA tournament semifinals for the fourth consecutive year.
A weeklong wait to see if the NIT throws them a postseason bone.
And did we mention Eric Maynor?
"I'm just picking my spots," VCU's two-time CAA player of the year said after leaving his fingerprints all over Sunday's semifinal. "Coach (Anthony) Grant puts us in great situations to do what we do best.
"The thing about me, I'm just trying to make the play. It's not always going to be a shot. Like he always tells me: Just make the plays. If a teammate's open, you find the teammate; if your shot is open, you take the shot."
Maynor scored 23 points, but more important than the baskets and free throws was when he scored them. He jump-started the Rams when ODU threatened to run away in the first half, then hit big shots and made timely plays to keep the Monarchs at arm's length in the second half.
"He's a real tough player," ODU forward Frank Hassell said. "He's a great player. I'm a pretty good shot blocker; I can never get to his shot. That floater's tough. He gets it up quick and high, and it's hard to get to."
While Maynor was cruising, the 6-foot-10 Lee became increasingly ground-bound after twisting his left ankle — the same foot in which he endures the discomfort of a stress fracture — midway through the first half.
Lee winced and limped noticeably, at one point going to the locker room early in the second half for treatment. One day after his 30-point effort lifted the Monarchs to a 52-51 quarterfinal win against Hofstra, he managed just five points on 1-for-7 shooting.
Lee's offensive struggles mirrored those of his teammates. After making nine of their first 16 shots on the way to a 10-point first-half lead, they made seven of their last 34.
"Those first 15 minutes, our guys were challenged," Grant said. "We were able to settle down, defend a lot better than we initially had to start the game, take the emotion out of it and focus on the things we needed to do. I thought from that point forward, our guys did a great job to put us in a position to win the game."
ODU made just 6 of 24 shots in the second half, none a jump shot. The Monarchs' overall shooting performance was a little like Saturday's quarterfinal, when everyone other than Lee missed 29 of 37 shots.
"Gerald's a great player," said Hassell, who led the Monarchs with 14 points, "and at 100 percent, the ball's going through him, and he makes good decisions. But without him, we still have other players and other plays that we ran, or that we could have run to get good shots.
"Like Darius (James') floater in the middle, Marsharee (Neely) had a couple shots. I had a shot or two I could have made. Keyon (Carter) had a couple shots. They just didn't fall in for us at the end."
As ODU's shots clanged away, the Rams re-discovered their stroke. Bradford Burgess' shot from the left corner at the 6:13 mark was just VCU's second 3-pointer of the game and pushed the Rams' lead to seven points.
Maynor's 3-pointer from the food court pushed the lead to 53-44. The Monarchs were within six points after a Carter three-point play, but VCU's Joey Rodriguez buried another 3-pointer from the left corner that goosed the margin to 59-49.
Maynor's floating alley-oop pass that Larry Sanders dunked for a 61-49 lead was a little extra frosting, or one more elbow to the ribs, from the ODU perspective.
Lee limped away from the interview room, back to the team bus, the only consolation being that if the Monarchs get a postseason invite, his ankle should be healed and he should be good to go.
"We all wanted to win," Hassell said. "You could see it in all our eyes. It's real tough to walk away like that. They just hit the big shots at the crucial times. You've got to absorb it and move on."
On Page 3On Page 3 Cam Long's 3-pointers help George Mason end Towson's CAA tournament run.
Dave Fairbank can be reached at 247-4637 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Read his blog at dailypress.com/fromthetarpit