VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – The sports world abounds with clichés. Often, these are used to impart narrative meaning to game performances, even if to do so requires forcing a square peg into a round hole. This is not one of those times.
As we noted in our last entry, the Virginia Wesleyan Marlins, carrying a number #15 national ranking and high preseason expectations, had a rough go of it in their loss at Bridgewater. Thus, the cliché goes, Coach Dave Macedo’s crew would be due for a bounce-back game against Randolph College. To say that the Marlins merely “bounced back” would be an understatement. The blowout we thought we would see in Bridgewater manifested itself in the Batten Center.
The Marlins team that showed up against the WildCats looked nothing like the bewildered and outhustled bunch that had lost three days before. First and foremost, they shot the three-ball with incredible precision throughout the first half. Against the Eagles, they managed only seven threes all game. The Marlins matched that mark in the first fourteen minutes, and didn’t stop there. By the end of the half, Wesleyan had made 12 threes in 20 attempts, which nearly equaled their number of attempts in their prior game. Even without sharpshooter Sedric Nady, and with another middling effort from star DJ Woodmore (8 point, 5 rebounds, 3 assists), Cameron Owens and Khory Moore more than equaled their offensive production, combining for 33 points.
Meanwhile, the Randolph offense struggled mightily. Some of this can be attributed to the loss of ODACcess favorite Zach Desgain, missing his third consecutive game after an injury early in Randolph’s loss to Staten Island. However, it’s unlikely that his 10.9 points per game could have made the difference. For over 12 minutes in the first half, the WildCats failed to score from the field, by which point, the Marlins had moved out to a 40-8 lead, and it was all over but the shouting.
But we’d be remiss not to mention the defensive effort of the Marlins. Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall would be proud: they played angry. After seeing the team “come out flat” in Bridgewater, Coach Macedo seemingly emphasized quickness on defense, and the team clearly took to it. They ran a full court press for most of the game, even after extending the game was far out of reach. By doing so, they managed a +9 turnover differential, including a shot clock violation. Every inbound pass seemed to take ages, and the Randolph offense never managed to get into a rhythm. One fan commented that this speed is a Macedo trademark, and it seems to be working: in his years at Virginia Wesleyan, he now has 300 wins to only 96 losses, and a national title to boot.
The importance of this team to its community of fans cannot be understated, and Coach Macedo clearly has a role in that. He was very emphatic about wanting to teach his players to “be Marlins,” and the number of former players who were in attendance speaks to the commitment they have to their alma mater. The fans we spoke to were incredibly committed to following their team. One fan expressed a belief that others thought Marlins fans were “mean,” but nothing in our experience in the Fish Tank would suggest that.
The second half was more competitive, but Virginia Wesleyan’s first half dominance had made it little more than a formality. Still, Coach Nunley had to take a modicum of solace from his bunch’s performance in the second half. While they still didn’t match up to the torrent of threes VWC unleashed in the first, they put up a respectable 31 points, shooting 45.5% from the field. More encouragingly, they forced played much better defense, and cleaned up the defensive boards. They were, however, still susceptible to the Marlins’ thievery, which I’m sure will be a talking point this week in Lynchburg.
- Final: #15 Va. Wesleyan Marlins 75 (10-3, 3-1 ODAC), Randolph WildCats 65 (8-5, 2-2)
- Player of the Game: Cameron Owens (Va. Wesleyan) (19 points, 5 three-pointers, and 7 rebounds)
- Relive the game from our seats: check out our @ODACcess livetweets on Storify
- Mileage Tracker: 861 miles
- Next Stop: Emory and Henry at Guilford, January 15