ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) — His Old Dominion teammates were already well aware of what Trey Freeman could do after he played a season on the scout team in practice.
Now, the Monarchs’ opponents are finding out.
The junior guard, a transfer from Campbell, led Old Dominion in scoring for the third straight game with 25 points in a 70-61 victory Friday in the first round of the Paradise Jam tournament at the University of the Virgin Islands.
“Coach (Jeff) Jones has been putting me in position to be successful, and telling me to make the game simple, and don’t try to do too much,” said Freeman, who was 9 of 18 from the field.
The Monarchs (3-0) are trying to become the first two-time Paradise Jam men’s winner in the event’s 14th year.
“He has everyone’s respect,” ODU coach Jeff Jones said. “He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached. So I think paying the price in that way, that gets you up to speed.”
LSU (2-1) led 15-3 early with energy plays resulting in three quick baskets coming on transition.
But Old Dominion would take its first lead with 3:39 left in the first half on a Freeman’s pull-up jumper that capped a 12-0 run and put the Monarchs up 29-28.
“We fought through adversity,” said Freeman, who is averaging 20.3 points per game this season. “We started off really slow, but Keenan Palmore came in and provided the energy for us.”
Palmore scored nine points in 17 minutes off the bench.
The Monarchs took a 33-30 lead to halftime as LSU’s starting frontcourt of Jarell Martin, Jordan Mickey and Elbert Robinson III sat on the bench with two fouls apiece.
“We didn’t handle that well,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “Those guys went to the bench, they fought and got momentum of the game right there in the first half.”
The Monarchs stretched the lead to 40-30 by scoring the first seven points of the second half, extending a 23-2 run.
Martin scored 17 points and had 11 rebounds to lead LSU.
LSU battled back behind the defense of Mickey, who had four blocked shots.
The Tigers managed to tie the game at 55-55 with 4:55 to play, but ODU’s Jonathan Arledge scored on a drive, a putback and a jump shot to help push the advantage back to 63-60 with 3:04 left.
Nik Biberaj’s 3-pointer for Old Dominion put it away at 67-61 with 36.3 seconds to play.
ODU last won the Paradise Jam in 2010 when it topped Xavier in the final en route to a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
“That team was so far advanced than us, but that’s something we’re striving for,” Freeman said. “We’re taking it one game at a time, and we’re grateful for every opportunity, and trying to make the most of it.”
LSU: Keith Hornsby, a junior transfer from North Carolina-Asheville, scored 15 points for LSU. . Martin and Mickey combined for 17 rebounds, but none of them were on the offensive end.
Old Dominion: Senior forward Richard Ross may have had the highlight of the game in the first half when he drove from the left baseline and threw a powerful dunk over LSU’s Jordan Mickey with 7:35 left until halftime. . The Monarchs won despite 11-of-23 shooting (48 percent) from the free-throw line, including 6 of 13 (46 percent) in the second half.
Freeman scored many of his 25 points on pull-up jumpers. He said it’s a shot he worked on while he missed last season. “I worked on it every day. I’m not the quickest, I don’t jump the highest, so I need something.”
Old Dominion will play in Sunday’s Paradise Jam semifinal against the winner of Friday night’s Illinois State-Weber State game.
LSU will play in Saturday’s Paradise Jam consolation semifinal against the loser of Friday night’s Illinois State-Weber State game.