RICHMOND, Va. -- Last night, James Madison University coach Lefty Driesell had his team in position to make a 4-year-old dream come true. Instead the Dukes lost, 78-73, to Old Dominion University, the fourth-seeded team in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
"It's kind of hard to talk about this," Driesell said as he entered the post-game interview room. "After 35 years, it doesn't get any easier. I still don't know what to tell you.
"But when this season started, I don't think anyone thought we'd win 21 games. I don't think anyone thought we'd win the regular-season title. And I don't think anyone thought we would be in the finals here. I have to say, I'm very proud of our ballclub for doing all that."
But that's not all Driesell wanted from this team or for this team. He wanted one more victory, No. 601. He wanted to win the CAA tournament and the trip to the NCAA tournament that went with it.
"I'd like to get into the NCAAs," Driesell said before the game. "I'd like to get to the Final Four before I die."
But Old Dominion had its own dream.
The Monarchs (15-14) knocked off top-seeded Richmond in the semifinals and continued on their upset path last night against James Madison (21-10).
"Certainly, this is our biggest win," said first-year Old Dominion coach Oliver Purnell. "I told our guys before the game, this was our chance to turn a good season into a great season."
Junior Keith Jackson (19 points, seven rebounds), senior Ricardo Leonard (18 points, 10 rebounds) and freshman Petey Sessoms (14 points, eight rebounds) led the way.
This will be Old Dominion's first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1986. At that time, Purnell was one of Driesell's assistants at Maryland.
That was also the last season a Driesell team made the NCAAs. That was Len Bias' senior year, when Driesell was forced out of Maryland.
"I've got a lot of love for Coach Driesell and his family," said Purnell. "Three years they've won the regular season but been kept out of the NCAAs because they didn't win the tournament.
"I'd love to see him go to the NCAAs, I know how tough this is for him."
Driesell didn't linger. He answered questions, did a little politicking for an at-large NCAA bid and then returned to his team's locker room. He locked the door and said a few words before bolting for the door.
"He told us to keep our heads up and not get too down," said junior guard Bryan Edwards, who led all scorers with 26 points and almost single-handedly tried to lead JMU to victory. "But this is very frustrating. Very upsetting. We were supposed to win, but they won.
"They pushed the ball up the court, before we could get back on defense. Most of the time, there was only one guy back -- me -- and they had two or three. You could say it was very up-tempo."
NOTES: ODU's Leonard was named MVP. Teammates Jackson and Donald Anderson were named to the all-star team along with JMU's Jeff Chambers and William Davis and Richmond's Curtis Blair.
OLD DOMINION -- Larkin 0-1 0-0 0, Harvey 1-2 1-2 3, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Anderson 2-6 6-6 11, Grant 2-3 3-4 8, Jackson 6-15 5-8 19, Robinson 2-3 1-3 5, Leonard 8-17 2-5 18, Sessoms 5-10 3-3 14. Totals 26-57 21-31 78.
JAMES MADISON -- Edwards 9-20 4-4 26, Venson 1-2 2-5 4, Culuko 2-11 4-7 9, Davis 5-7 2-2 12, Chambers 5-9 2-2 12, Bostic 1-6 3-4 5, Carter 2-2 1-3 5, Ritter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-57 18-27 73.
Halftime--Old Dominion 41, James Madison 31. 3-point goals--Old Dominion 5-13 (Anderson 1-2, Grant 1-2, Jackson 2-6, Sessoms 1-3), James Madison 5-13 (Edwards 4-8, Culuko 1-5). Fouled out--Chambers, Davis. Rebounds--Old Dominion 39 (Leonard 10), James Madison 36 (Bostic 10). Assists--Old Dominion 13 (Anderson 8), James Madison 8 (Davis 4). Total fouls--Old Dominion 21, James Madison 21. A--NA.
NCAA automatic bids
Schools that have received automatic bids to the NCAA basketball tournament. All bids are by virtue of conference tournament championships with the exception of Ivy League, Big Ten and Pacific 10 conferences, which do not conduct postseason tournaments.
* Campbell, Big South
* East Tennessee State, Southern
* Howard, Mid-Eastern Athletic
* LaSalle,Metro Atlantic Athletic
* Mississippi Valley State, Southwestern Athletic
* Murray State, Ohio Valley
* Northeast Louisiana, Southland
* Old Dominion, Colonial Athletic
* Pepperdine, West Coast
* Princeton, Ivy League
* Southwestern Louisiana, Sun Belt
;/ * Southwest Missouri State, Missouri Valley