VCU Hoops takes down ODU 75-66 in rivalry game

Local Sports

NORFOLK, Va. (ODU Athletics) – Old Dominion’s basketball team handled VCU’s vaunted press pretty well, shot well and played rock-solid defense for most of Saturday night.

But the Rams put ODU away by making four three-points shots in a 2 ½ minute of stretch of the final 5:42 to claim a 75-66 victory at Chartway Arena.

It was the annual renewal of a rivalry that, when both schools were in the CAA, was likely the best in the state. Since VCU left the league in 2012, the Rams have won eight of 10, including three in a row.

ODU (5-6) trailed by just two, 59-57, with 6:02 left on a pair of Kalu Ezikpe foul shots.

But then Vince Williams made a three-pointer with 5:42 to go. By the time Marcus Tsohonis made the fourth three-pointer with 3:05 left, VCU (6-4) led 70-62, a margin the Monarchs simply could not overcome.

“They were tougher than us,” ODU coach Jeff Jones said, noting that on at least one of the four three-point shots, a Monarch defender missed an assignment. 

“All year long we don’t give those up,” Jones said. “When you’re in a dog fight, you can’t afford to make that kind of poor decision.”

Jones said his team played hard-nosed defense.

“We played hard,” he said. “We could not have played any harder.

“But we need to humble ourselves a little bit and do the things that win games, that aren’t going to be in any headlines, and aren’t going to be on highlight films, but wins games.”

ODU led at the half, 37-31, largely because the Monarchs sliced through the VCU press and got high-quality shots. ODU had just six turnovers at halftime while VCU had nine.

ODU bolted to an early 11-point lead, 24-13, on a layup and free throw from C.J. Keyser nine minutes into the game.  Austin Trice made it 26-16 on a fast-break layup with 9:07 to play.

The Monarchs went cold, going scoreless for four minutes, and the Rams trimmed the lead to two, 26-24, on a Josh Banks layup.

Trice made two layups in the final two minutes to build the lead to six.

The Rams turned up the defensive heat and forced four turnovers in the first 3 ½ minutes of the second half and retook the lead, 40-38, on a three-point shot.

Trice brought the crowd of 7,919 to its feet with a one-handed dunk over two VCU players with nine minutes left that gave ODU  51-50 lead. However, he was assessed a technical for taunting.

Although Williams made only one of two subsequent free throws, it proved to be a key foul.

Trice led ODU at the time with 15 points, with most coming when he finished off the fast break with driving layups. But the tech was his third foul and he was assessed his fourth minutes later on a rebound foul.

He would score only one more point.

Ezipke, ODU’s other big man, was also in foul trouble.

Although they often alternate at center, ODU had success against VCU when they were both on the court.

“But when they both had four fouls, that was tough to do,” Jones said. “That didn’t lose he game. It was a great play by Austin.

“But you just can’t do that. He hurt his team by doing that. Again, it comes down to being mentally tough and disciplined.” 

In spite of the tech, Trice played one of his best games for ODU. He led the Monarchs with 16 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots

Keyser had 14 points, Ezikpe 11 and Mekhi Long 10. Freshman D’Angelo Stines continued to play well off the bench, scoring nine points by making four of five shots.

ODU breaks for final exams and does not play again until Saturday, Dec. 19, when the Monarchs travel to Richmond. Then, on Dec. 22, the Monarchs host the College of Charleston at 7 p.m. in their final non-conference game of the season.

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