Ironically, the Old Dominion University Monarchs (14-15, 7-5) and Rice Owls (7-18, 2-10) squared off, in front of 5,409 fans, at the Ted Constant Convocation Center on Thursday, Feb. 20, both with the hopes of shaking off big losses.
Rice’s defeat came at the hands of Louisiana Tech while the Monarchs loss came on the road to Tulsa, where they scored only 37 points.
ODU, whose anemic offense struggled mightily in spurts against Rice, was able to secure a 55-51 come-from-behind victory over the Owls.
At one point in the game, Monarch’s coach, Jeff Jones, yelled at his players, “You are just giving them points because you are not ready to play.”
The offensively challenged Monarchs have struggled several times to score in the second half of games this season, including Thursday night, they have scored 40 points in their last two second halves of action combined, their opponents outscoring them 62-40.
The Monarchs overcame a 49-42 deficit, with 6:48 remaining, after losing a seven point lead they held early in the second half.
The Monarchs held a 38-31 lead with 13:25 remaining in the game, then the Owls went on a 10-0 run that extended over four minutes of game action.
During the run, the Monarchs haphazardly continued to shoot ill-advised 3-pointers. ODU had a stretch in the second half in which it missed seven consecutive 3-pointers. Overall, the Monarchs shot 3-22 from behind the arc, a disastrous 13 percent. Dimitri Batten halted the run with a free-throw, but the Owls responded with another 5-point run.
Finally the Monarchs connected on a 3-pointer, Ambrose Mosely, who has been the catalyst for ODU’s last two victories knocked home a trey from the left wing, with 2:46 remaing and the Monarchs reclaimed the lead 50-49, capping an 8-0 run.
“Obviously, Ambrose’s shot was a big one,” Jones said. “It takes a lot of guts to take it and make it.”
Batten and Mosely struggled mightily in the game, combining for 2-17 shooting and seven points.
After Max Guercy knocked home two clutch free-throws, Rice retook the lead, 51-50.
Richard Ross, who came out with a sense of urgency from the opening tip, knocked in a jumper for the Monarchs to retake the lead and they stayed in front from then on. Ross scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
“We had to basically keep it simple and say, ‘Calm down, we got this, we’ll be all right.’ I know sometimes you have a drought, but just like they made a run, we can make a run,” said Ross.
Mosely converted on 1-2 free throws and Aaron Bacote made 2-4 as the Monarchs secured a much needed home victory.
“That’s a good win,” Jones said. “We didn’t play well, but that happens sometimes.”
ODU, 7-5 in the Conference USA (C-USA), still has something to play for. The Monarchs are currently sitting in sixth place in the conference, and are still fighting for a first-round bye in the C-USA tournament.
The Monarchs host Louisiana Tech Saturday, Feb. 22 at the Ted Constant Center. Louisiana Tech is 21-6 and 9-3 in C-USA.
“Late February, a chance to play a game that matters, that’s exciting,” Jones said.
By Brian Saunders