VCU limited Old Dominion to 35 percent shooting in the second half and overtime of Wednesday's win.

RICHMOND, Va. – I suppose there’s truth in the idea that defense and rebounding are decisions, that they’re more about effort and “want to” than about actual talent. But you can’t tell me that Rosie O’Donnell can guard Candice Parker. I don’t care how hard she tries.

However, it’s true that desire can get you a defensive stop much more often than it can produce a 3-pointer or an exceptional individual offensive play.

VCU has plenty of athleticism and ability, but in the first half of their 76-72 overtime victory over rival Old Dominion, the Rams watched the Lady Monarchs shoot 55 percent.

The Rams (10-5, 3-1 CAA) were slow to get back defensively in transition, and ODU burned them to the tune of an 11-2 advantage in fast break points. When the Lady Monarchs (5-11, 2-2 CAA) weren’t bleeding VCU on the break, they were pounding the ball inside, scoring 24 points in the paint in the first half on the way to a 45-36 lead. Something was missing.

“In the first half I felt like it wasn’t so much what Old Dominion was running or not running, it was just our lack of intensity on the defensive end of the floor,” said VCU Coach Beth Cunningham.

So VCU made a decision, a metal commitment defense, and couldn’t have looked more different in the second half.

Defense fueled an 11-2 VCU run to open the second to tie the game at 47-47. Later, the Rams twice turned away the Lady Monarchs in the closing seconds of regulation to send the game into overtime.

“We weren’t focused in the first half. We were passive out of the gate,” said senior forward Courtney Hurt, who finished with 22 points and 16 rebounds. “Coach got on us at halftime and we just regrouped and came back with a more defensive mindset.”

It wasn’t just that the Rams put greater emphasis on defense, it was how they went about it.

“I just felt like they just stepped up putting on more ball pressure and overplaying the wings more in the second half. They were definitely more aggressive second half,” said first-year Old Dominion Coach Karen Barefoot.

Old Dominion had zero fast break points in the second half and overtime and shot a combined 35 percent (12-of-34) over the final 25 minutes. The Lady Monarchs were also stymied by outstanding VCU perimeter defense in the 20 seconds of overtime. Down 75-72, ODU, tried in vain to get a look at a 3-pointer, but couldn’t, and eventually turned the ball over with three seconds remaining to seal the VCU win.

“Really, at the end of the game I thought we had some great defensive possessions,” Cunningham said. “There were a couple times where we had to come up and get stops [and did]. We did a great job of coming out of halftime with a different mentality, closed the gap up pretty good, but we’ve got to play with that kind of mentality all the time.”

Senior center Chelsea Snyder provided 5 points and a career-high 10 rebounds against the Lady Monarchs.

SNYDER STEPS UP
While VCU received big games from Hurt and senior guard Andrea Barbour (24 points, 11 rebounds), not to be overlooked was the play of senior Chelsea Snyder, who provided 5 points and a career-high 10 rebounds.

Snyder, a 6-foot-6 center, entered Wednesday’s contest averaging 2.1 points and 2.6 rebounds per game, but ended up playing a pivotal role in the VCU victory. Six of her rebounds came on the offensive glass and her put-back with 1:30 remaining sent the game to overtime tied at 70-70.

“She was huge,” Cunningham said. “It’s her being a senior. I’ve been waiting for her to step up like this. Certainly there wasn’t a better time. We needed her tonight. It’s something I’ve been on her about. That’s the kind of impact that she’s got to give us on the glass.”

Snyder also drew the evening’s toughest defensive assignment in Tia Lewis. Lewis did produce 21 points for ODU, but Snyder held her ground and used her size advantage to force the 6-foot-3 senior to miss a turnaround jumper as time expired at the end of regulation.

“Getting that stop on Tia Lewis, that was the biggest stop of the game,” said Hurt.

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