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ODU battles No. 2 Kentucky for Hall of Fame Tip-Off title

The championship game of the Hall of Fame Off features the second-ranked Kentucky Wildcats and the Old Dominion Monarchs.

Old Dominion opened the season with a 17-point loss to Northern Iowa in front of the home crowd, but the team has bounced back strong with three consecutive wins. Members of the Colonial Athletic Association, the Monarchs were able to knock off South Florida in overtime yesterday by a 68-66 final to advance to today's matchup.

John Calipari's young and incredibly talented Kentucky team has posted double- digit victories in all three games to date. Against a previously unbeaten Penn State team yesterday, the Wildcats were downright dominant, crushing the Nittany Lions in an 85-47 final. Kentucky is the favorite in the SEC East, though competition from the likes of Vanderbilt and Florida will be fierce.

Kentucky and Old Dominion have met on just one other occasion, as the Wildcats beat the Monarchs by a 86-69 final in the first round of the 1992 NCAA Tournament.

ODU lacks the type of player that can take over a game at the offensive end of the floor. The two top scorers on the roster, Kent Bazemore (12.0 ppg) and Dimitri Batten (10.8 ppg), are far more steady than spectacular. The Monarchs are scoring 61.0 ppg this season while permitting 60.2 ppg to opponents. Rebounding has been an area of strength for the club, as it is pulling down 4.3 rpg more than its foes. In yesterday's tussle with South Florida, Bazemore was outstanding off the bench with 23 points, including 12 from the foul line, but he turned the ball over eight times with zero assists. It should be noted that he also ripped down nine rebounds and had seven steals, so the good clearly outweighed the bad. Batten posted 12 points in the triumph, while Chris Cooper tallied 10 points. The Monarchs forced 21 turnovers, key to the victory.

Through three outings, Kentucky has six players averaging double figures in scoring, and Doron Lamb leads the pack with 19.3 ppg on the strength of his 54.5 percent shooting from the floor, including 56.3 percent from three-point range. Star freshman Anthony Davis checks in with 13.3 ppg and 7.3 rpg, while standout sophomore Terrence Jones adds 12.7 ppg and 8.3 rpg. With three freshmen and two sophomores in the starting lineup, Kentucky is one of the nation's youngest teams, but the fact it is posting 89.3 ppg while allowing only 56.7 ppg speaks to the team's overall ability. In yesterday's 38-point romp over Penn State, Lamb exploded for 26 points in 28 minutes of action, while Jones pitched in 15 points. Davis was held to three points, but that effort was overshadowed by the fact that the Wildcats shot 52.8 percent from the field as a team and earned a 19-4 edge in points from the foul line. Defensively, they limited the overmatched Nittany Lions to 26.9 percent shooting.