It had everything you'd want from a college basketball game, except a happy ending for the home folks.
High stakes. Tight competition. Big crowd. Juiced crowd.
At William and Mary. Honest. Who'da thunk it?
Old Dominion's 58-55 win against the Tribe on Saturday at Kaplan Arena confirmed a couple of things that have unfolded this season:
The Monarchs deserve to be CAA preseason favorites.
The Tribe will have a say in the conference race and figures to finish in the top half of the league.
"I'll just say it was a great college basketball game," W&M coach Tony Shaver said. "Great atmosphere, well-played ball game. I don't think I can ask our guys to compete any harder than we did tonight, and I'm very proud of that. Tough one to lose, but a great one to be a part of."
ODU's size and inside game barely trumped William and Mary's perimeter presence in front of Kaplan Arena's largest crowd in 17 years (7,216), a throng that nearly willed the Tribe to a victory.
"Obviously, a great environment," ODU coach Blaine Taylor said. "I heard somebody announce that it was the largest crowd around here since Christ was a corporal."
An hour before tipoff, Tribe Club head and fund-raiser extraordinaire Bobby Dwyer was helping direct traffic on Ukrop Way, a quarter-mile from Kaplan Arena.
Scalpers were seen prowling the area around W&M Hall, which is like spotting polar bears in Alabama.
ODU assistant Jim Corrigan, who spent seven years at William and Mary in the late '80s and early '90s and has been in the CAA for 23 seasons, recalled a similar atmosphere during an overtime loss to Virginia in 1993.
Former men's soccer coach and Tribe fixture Al Albert said that maybe the 1978 win over North Carolina rivaled Saturday's crowd and buzz.
Longtime women's soccer coach John Daly was asked the last time he saw a crowd that size in the arena.
"At graduation," he deadpanned.
When W&M Chancellor and former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor climbed to the top row and contorted her body to spell out T-R-I-B-E during the second media timeout, the roof nearly blew off the joint.
OK, maybe that last one is an exaggeration.
"They've got a really good team and they played really hard," Taylor said. "They're having a really nice year. It was a really nice environment. I think people really got their money's worth. It was quite a game, probably, to watch.
"You get so immersed in the competition if you're us, and then you walk off the court afterward and go, 'Man, that was probably pretty fun to watch.'"
It was an entertaining chess match between teams with diametrically opposite styles. The Tribe plays outside-in and is often happier taking 3-point shots than 10-footers, while ODU is mad long and at its best when patient enough to get the ball inside to the likes of all-league forward Gerald Lee and workhorse forward Frank Hassell.
Both teams played to their strengths in the second half. Lee and Hassell combined for 20 points in the second half as ODU built a small cushion and a 40-32 rebound edge.
The Tribe, meanwhile, stayed close with 3-pointers from David Schneider (14 points) and JohnMark Ludwick. Six of W&M's eight field goals in the second half were from behind the arc.
"I don't know that we didn't get enough looks inside," Shaver said. "We are what we are."
They are a CAA contender that fell just short to the best team in the conference, on a night that everyone will remember.
"The best way for me to describe that," Shaver said of the importance of the evening, "is, not just me, but our staff, our coaches, we spent six years trying to build something here. But our players, past and present, our alumni, our administration, we've worked very hard to build this thing.
"This game was big for both teams. This game was big for the conference, and for our guys to create that kind of atmosphere is a really neat thing, a really neat thing."
Dave Fairbank can be reached at 247-4637 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Fairbank, read his blog at dailypress.com/fromthetarpit.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times