RICHMOND, Va. -- Old Dominion felt as if it was playing with a burden in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament -- the one the team expected to win.
The league's regular-season champion did just that Monday night, taking control early and beating third-seeded William & Mary 60-53 in the tournament championship, likely ending the Tribe's feel-good push for the first NCAA tournament appearance in school history.
"We wanted it. We wanted this win really bad," said Old Dominion's Gerald Lee, the tournament's most valuable player. "We know we accomplished something tonight."
Darius James scored 12 points, Kent Bazemore had 10 and the Monarchs (26-8) used the tough defense they hope defines them to shut off William & Mary's bread-and-butter 3-point game. The Tribe made just 9 of 31 3-point attempts, and took several while closely guarded.
Old Dominion won the league's guaranteed bid for the first time since 2005, and will head into the field of 65 for the third time in six years. The Monarchs also went as an at-large team in 2007, and will make their sixth consecutive trip to the postseason.
"These kids were probably better able to measure up to the challenge because they have been somewhere before and I know we wanted to go somewhere better," coach Blaine Taylor said.
Trailing throughout, William & Mary pulled within five with 5 minutes left on Danny Sumner's fifth 3-pointer and two free throws by Quinn McDowell, but Lee hit a 10-foot baby hook from the right baseline with 4:46 to go to end the run, and William & Mary never got closer.
The loss left William & Mary hoping a resume that includes road victories at Wake Forest and Maryland of the Atlantic Coast Conference and Richmond of the Atlantic 10 will impress the selection committee. Otherwise, they seem assured of a berth in the NIT, which would also be somewhat historic; only in 1982 has the Tribe played in a postseason tournament.
"I think we will play somewhere," coach Tony Shaver said. "I don't think the NCAA tournament is something that's going to happen. ... I don't think this team should carry the burden of our past. The team is a team deserving of playing in a national tournament."
William & Mary (22-10) is one of five original Division I schools, along with Army, The Citadel, Northwestern and St. Francis, N.Y., never to have been included in an NCAA field.
Sumner led William & Mary with 19 points, but David Schneider, William & Mary's top scorer and hero of the semifinals victory, struggled, shooting just 2 of 13 from the field. He was 1 for 9 in the semifinals, but his lone basket was the difference in a two-point victory.
The Tribe's problem all night was playing catchup. They trailed 31-24 at halftime and the margin grew to 15 when the Monarchs opened the second half on a 10-2 spurt. It started with a 3-pointer by James and finished with one by Ben Finney, giving ODU its largest lead.
The Tribe responded with seven points in a row, the last five on a dunk and 3-pointer by Sumner, and had pulled to within 47-40 when Finney made his second 3 to stop the burst.
It was one of the few big shots the Monarchs had to hit to stay comfortably ahead, and foiled the strategy the Tribe employed defensively, trying to get the Monarchs to shoot 3s.
"It's not something they normally do real well," Shaver said.
But this time, they did, hitting 7 of 19.
Old Dominion led 31-24 at halftime, mostly on the strength of a 14-3 run midway through the half that extended a 13-11 lead to 27-14. Basemore and James each scored five in the burst, while the Tribe were 1 for 6 from the field and turned the ball over four times.
But the Monarchs scored just four more points in the half, while 3-pointers by Schneider, JohnMark Ludwick and Sumner closed the Tribe within seven at the break.