NORFOLK, Va. (ODU Athletics) – Trailing by 12 with eight minutes left, the Old Dominion men’s basketball staged a dramatic comeback against the College of Charleston Wednesday night that had a Chartway Arena crowd of 4,272 on its feet and screaming.
ODU briefly took a two-point lead, 80-78, on a Kalu Ezikpe jump shot with 1:56 remaining. But needing a basket in the final seconds, the Monarchs faltered.
Charleston retook the lead when Babacar Faye made a floating jump shot in the lane with 27 seconds left. C.J. Keyser’s fallaway three-point jump shot with three seconds left missed, allowing Charleston to escape with an 82-80 victory.
The loss was the third in a row for ODU (5-8) and the second in a row in which the Monarchs played well but not quite good enough to win.
ODU led Richmond in the second half Sunday before falling to the Spiders, 67-61. The Monarchs lost in the final seconds to the Spiders, who had beaten North Carolina State a few nights earlier.
ODU coach Jeff Jones did not call a timeout after Faye gave Charleston (8-4) the lead.
“I didn’t want to call a timeout in an unsettled situation like that, I wanted to attack,” he said. “But nobody really stepped up and that was what I was looking for, for someone to attack and get a shot.
“I’ll be thinking about ‘what if’ for a few days.”
“In that unsettled situation, we had been attacking all night. I thought just playing on and not utilizing that last time out was the way to go.”
Keyser, a senior transfer from North Carolina Central who led ODU with a season-high 26 points, said in hindsight, he shouldn’t have settled for a jump shot.
“I probably should have just driven to the basket and gotten some contact,” he said. “I’ve got to be better in those situations.”
ODU was outrebounded, 46-32, by the taller and more physically imposing Cougars. Charleston outscored ODU in the paint, 40-14, and 22-5 on second-chance baskets.
The Monarchs shot better from beyond the arc than they have recently, as they made five of 10 three-point shots in the first half and eight of 21 for the game.
They also outscored Charleston, 34-13, from the free-throw line. Both teams made a little more than 41 percent of their shots, but Charleston took 74 shots to just 46 for the Monarchs.
ODU’s players head home Thursday for Christmas break and resume practice on Dec. 27. They then open their Conference USA schedule at Florida International on Dec. 30 and then play at Florida Atlantic on New Year’s Day.
“I hope they’ll come back even more determined to take that next step,” Jones said.
“Charleston, I have a lot of respect for them and how hard they played. They forced us to do some good things in order to have a chance to win. We just weren’t good enough.”
Charleston has won five of its last seven and has losses to North Carolina and Oklahoma State. The Cougars are coached by Pat Kelsey, who was 186-95 in nine seasons at Winthrop and led the Eagles to a 23-2 record and Big South championship and NCAA Tournament bid.
All but two players left in the offseason and he brought in 10 newcomers.
Jones said he’s encouraged by how hard and how well his team played against Richmond and Charleston.
“We’re getting better, but we’re not winning games, we’re not getting the reward,” he said. “Losing gets old after a while. It was tough, it was tough to put this much into it as our guys did and come up short. It’s disappointing for them.
“But I believe in this team, I believe in these guys. But we’ve got work to do. The next time we’re in a close game, we’ve got to be better.”