NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Two days after he couldn’t even jog without limping because of an injured ankle, Old Dominion’s Trey Freeman hit the runner of his life.
The junior guard banked in a running 3-pointer at the buzzer Wednesday night to lift the Monarchs to a 72-69 victory over Murray State in the NIT quarterfinals.
The win puts the Monarchs (27-7) into the semifinals at Madison Square Garden for the first time since 2006. They will play Stanford on Tuesday night.
ODU inbounded the ball with 3.5 seconds left after Jeffery Moss of the Racers hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 69. Freeman took the pass and dribbled up the right side under heavy pressure from T.J. Sapp.
But Freeman squeezed by Sapp and launched his 30-footer just before the horn sounded.
“He was trying to force me out of bounds, so I was concentrating on that,” said Freeman, who scored 25 points. He was limited to 12 ineffective minutes in ODU’s 50-49 victory over Illinois State on Monday because of the ankle.
“I was just trying to get it up in the air and put some arc on it. I felt like it was on line. I was just hoping.”
ODU coach Jeff Jones said he just hoped the play the Monarchs have practiced all season without much success would finally click.
“The guys knew what we were going to do,” Jones said. “We told Trey, you’ve got time for two dribbles . . . and get off the best shot he could. Obviously the one that he chose was pretty good.”
ODU led by two at halftime and took at 10-point lead with 3:39 to play. But behind full-court pressure, the Racers forced numerous turnovers to spark a 14-4 run — capped by Moss’ 3 to tie it.
“I’m extremely hurt for my guys,” Murray State coach Steve Prohm said. “We’re 27-2 in our last 29 games; we’ve lost on a fadeaway 3 (to Belmont in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship game) and a banked, 3-point runner.”
Prohm said the Racers (29-6) intended to “corral the ball” on the final play, but couldn’t prevent Freeman from slithering through a slight opening and hit a tough shot.
Cameron Payne had 23 points for the Racers who made just 5 of 21 3-point attempts and shot 38 percent overall.
Jones said a meeting with Freeman earlier Wednesday left him cautiously optimistic his top scorer would be able to play unbothered by his ankle.
“I wasn’t sure until shootaround this afternoon, but he came into the office this morning and looked spry, talking about his mom’s homemade Baton Rouge cure,” Jones said. “I’m not exactly sure what that entailed. But he looked better and looked to be in better spirits than I’ve seen him since he hurt the ankle.”
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