At least Delaware coach Monte Ross can pass this particular headache along to someone else.
Old Dominion's 59-50 victory against the Blue Hens in Saturday's quarterfinals of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament gave the Monarchs wins in two of three games against Delaware this season and booked a semifinal appearance on Sunday against Hofstra.
Saturday's game, like the two regular-season contests the teams split, was tight, and the factors that make the matchup close are the same reasons Ross loses sleep.
"Both of us play extremely hard. Both of us have an emphasis on defense," Ross said. "I see a lot in Old Dominion in terms of what I would like our program to get to. Their emphasis on defense, their ability to pound the glass — they're going to be a tough out in the NCAA tournament.
"I'll really enjoy watching them in the NCAA tournament and seeing some other coach stress when Frank Hassell gets another offensive rebound."
On Saturday, Hassell was Delaware's problem, and the Blue Hens couldn't solve him. The Monarchs' senior forward had 24 points and 10 rebounds for his 15th double-double — and his 12th in ODU's last 15 games — as second-seeded Old Dominion (25-6) pulled away in the final eight minutes from the Blue Hens (14-17), seeded seventh.
The Monarchs lost their conference opener at Delaware on Dec. 4 before avenging that defeat with a victory in Norfolk on Feb. 2. Saturday's rematch was tightly contested from the start, with neither team able to sustain breathing room.
The Blue Hens opened up a 17-8 lead early on behind the 3-point shooting of senior guard Jawan Carter, who had 14 of his 24 points in the first half. But a 9-0 run, which included a layup and a three-point play from Hassell, erased that deficit.
"We were down to Notre Dame by nine or 10" in last year's first-round NCAA tournament game, which ODU won 51-50, said Monarchs coach Blaine Taylor. "When you can draw upon an NCAA experience, that's something pretty good to draw upon, in terms of believing you can do it."
ODU went up by five top open the second half, only to see a 3 from CAA rookie of the year Devon Saddler tie the game at 35 with 10:15 to play. But another three-point play from Hassell, imposing his 6-foot-10, 260-pound will in the post, sparked the game's decisive run, an 11-2 spurt that put the Monarchs up 46-37 with 6:13 remaining.
"I thought there were three or four or five plays there where we were just a pass or a catch away from having a separation," Taylor said. "I thought the kids were a tad bit anxious to score."
A trio of late 3-pointers kept Delaware within striking distance, but ODU had an answer to each long-range shot: Hassell. Hassell hit a layup, a free throw and two more foul shots down the stretch to keep the Monarchs comfortably ahead.
Delaware shot just 33.3 percent in the second half, was outrebounded 36-25 and outscored 34-16 in the paint.
Conventional wisdom holds that ODU, which beat Clemson, Xavier, Richmond and Dayton on its way to an RPI of 27 and closed the regular season on a six-game winning streak, is assured of its second straight NCAA trip regardless of what happens in Richmond.
That doesn't mean the Monarchs, last year's regular-season and tournament champions, have no interest in defending their CAA crown.
"First things first," senior guard Ben Finney said. "We came in with high expectations on winning this tournament."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun