Old Dominion Lady Monarchs
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REGION: Mideast SEED: 8
COACH: Wendy Larry CONFERENCE: C-USA
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
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The 6-foot-1 senior forward led the Lady Monarchs in scoring (14.8 points) and ranked second in the conference in rebounding (9.6) during the regular season. Coker also was the CAA's top offensive rebounder (3.8 average) and third-best shot blocker (1.5). She led ODU in rebounding in 19 regular-season games, including three contests where she pulled down 17 boards.
ANALYSIS BY ESPN'S STACEY DALES-SCHUMAN
In earning her 16th trip with Old Dominion to the NCAA Tournament, Wendy Larry's Lady Monarchs also set an NCAA record by winning their 13th straight Colonial Athletic Association title. She is doing everything she can to take her team back to the national championship stage, which she did in 1997 when ODU fell to Tennessee in the title game.
The Lady Monarchs feature a balanced offensive attack with a starting line averaging just more than 60 points. The starters are carried by senior forward Monique Coker and closely followed by another senior in lightning-quick Max Nhassengo of Mozambique.
With athletic bodies and a valiant effort to compete, both players fit the ODU system perfectly. Coker, an All-CAA first-team pick, leads the team with almost 15 points and a commanding 9 rebounds.
Though a guard, all-league first-teamer Nhassengo is the most precise finisher, shooting 53 percent from the floor. She's also the league's top defender, taking home CAA Defensive Player of the Year honors after ranking fifth in the conference with 2.4 steals per game.
Junior point Shareese Grant tops the team with four assists.
As usual, Old Dominion has stepped beyond conference boundaries to achieve a fully competitive schedule that has prepared the Lady Monarchs for the tournament -- they scored nonconference victories against the talented Penn State and athletic North Carolina and suffered losses to Virginia Tech, Tennessee and Rutgers. These experiences will no doubt mature this team for what's ahead.
Take notice of ODU's speed and ability to get to the rim. Unfortunately at times, the Lady Monarchs are too fast for comfort, as they average a lofty 19 turnovers per game.
On the flip side, they make up for these giveaways by forcing foes into 21 turnovers and intercepting 10 steals with high-octane defense. Furthermore, with erupting bodies smothering the offensive glass, ODU also finds plenty of opportunities for second-chance points, almost 16 to be exact.
One other plus for the Lady Monarchs -- they'll be the grand hosts of the NCAA Mideast Regional in Norfolk, Va., on March 28 and 30. Don't think that isn't added motivation for Larry and crew.