A young, inexperienced Old Dominion women's basketball team accomplished so much this season. After winning just eight games a year ago, they won 21 this year and finished fifth in Conference USA.
But in spite of their immense improvement, they didn't have quite enough to upset Western Kentucky in the quarterfinals of the C-USA tournament.
WKU eliminated the Monarchs from the tournament, 74-60, at the Ford Center at The Star in spite of an inspired effort from Taylor Edwards, who led ODU with a career high 20 points. Edwards played just five minutes and was scoreless in ODU's 75-60 loss at WKU earlier this season.
The good news for the Monarchs is that their season is likely not over. ODU is rated 104th in the Women's NCAA RPI ratings. Because the women's NIT has 64 teams, and not 32 as does the men's NIT, ODU has an outstanding chance of being selected Monday night.
Ken Brown, ODU's deputy athletic director, said the Monarchs have bid to host games at The Ted Constant Center.
ODU dug itself into something of a hole in the first half largely because the of their shooting woes and the Monarchs' inability to stop 6-foot-4 WKU forward Elgedawy. The sophomore from Alexandria, Egypt had 15 points and nine rebounds in the first half in spite of sitting the last several minutes of the second quarter with two fouls.
Faced with a WKU zone defense, ODU made just 2 of 16 3-point shots in the first half.
WKU held the lead throughout the second half. ODU cut it twice to five points, but each time the bigger and more experienced Hilltoppers pulled away.
WKU had a 50-40 edge in rebounds, although the Monarchs, as usual, dominated the offensive boards with 19.
"We had good shots," McCray said. "They just didn't fall."
ODU made 23 of 73 shots (31.5 percent).
It would have been a signature victory for ODU, which has not beaten the Hilltoppers in ten games since the Monarchs joined the league in 2013.
"We really wanted to win and felt like this was a game we could have won," McCray said.
"We didn’t rebound the ball as well as we should. But we played hard. This loss is not a question of who are are because we always play hard and compete.
"But on the details, you’ve got to be sharper especially at this stage. That's something that’s been inconsistent with our team, and part of that was our youth."
ODU returns everyone on its roster and has three signees from the fall, including Jordan Bailey, a 6-1 from Colbert, Ga., who will give the Monarchs needed size on the front line.
"I'm excited about our basketball team," McCray said. "Everyone is back and we've got good players coming in."
Edwards, however, says she hopes the team gets another season this season,
Going to the WNIT, she said, "would be another chance for us to prove ourselves."