(Courtesy ODU Sports/Harry Minium)
NORFOLK, Va. – The Old Dominion men’s basketball team played pretty solid defense Saturday night, but solid wasn’t nearly enough to stop Appalachian State guard Terence Harcum.
The sophomore from Butner, North Carolina made eight of 13 three-pointers, most with a Monarch hand in his face, and scored 28 points to lead App State to a 72-58 Sun Belt Conference victory over ODU.
The loss came two nights after ODU’s impressive, 70-58, victory over Georgia State in which the Monarchs shot well and played one of their best overall games of the season.
But gone were the crisp passes to guards breaking toward the basket that allowed the Monarchs (11-9 overall, 3-5 Sun Belt) to dominate the Panthers.
App State (11-10, 4-4) packed the lane and refused to allow guards Chaunce Jenkins and Tyreek Scott-Grayson, who combined for 45 points against Georgia State, to get easy baskets.
“Their defense keyed on clogging the lane,” said Jenkins, the sophomore from Newport News who had 12 points, four rebounds and four assists. “And they did a pretty good job.”
Scott-Grayson led ODU with 16 points, but most came on jump shots, including two three-pointers.
ODU head coach Jeff Jones called Saturday’s game “our worst loss of the year.”
“This one stings. They controlled the game. They showed great discipline and maturity, and they know who they are and they did what they do best, no matter what.
“They definitely kept Chaunce from getting to the rim and right now he’s the guy that makes us go. Tyreek has been the guy that scores a lot for us and generates stuff for everyone.”
ODU led only briefly and saw a 14-10 early lead wiped out by a 9-0 Mountaineer run, capped by a driving layup from freshman Justin Abson. App State, which had never played ODU before Saturday, led the rest of the way.
Harcum swished a three-pointer seconds into the second half to build the lead to 10 and CJ Huntley built the lead to 14, 45-31, three minutes later with a short jumper.
ODU then rallied twice but could not climb all the way back.
Scott-Grayson hit a turnaround jumper with 11:54 left that trimmed the lead to five and brought the Chartway Arena crowd of 5,954 to its feet.
But Harcum responded with a three-pointer and Dibaji Walker with a dunk to push the lead back to double digits.
Scott-Grayson made a steal and a layup, was fouled and made the foul shot to cut the lead to nine with 4:22 left. After Abson missed two foul shots, Mekhi Long made a layup to trim the margin to seven, 58-51, with 3:30 left.
Harcum then plunged a dagger into ODU’s comeback hopes with his eighth three-pointer of the game with 2:50 to go. The Monarchs never got close again.
App State shot 45 percent (23 of 51), while ODU shot 34 percent (19 of 56).
ODU was just seven of 22 on three-point attempts (32 percent).
Jones has encouraged his team to shoot more from behind the arc, but said his Monarchs need to be smarter about when and where they take their shots.
“We settled on some three-pointers tonight,” Jones said. “It shouldn’t be one pass then shoot the ball.”
Jenkins has started the last four games at point guard – not his usual position – since Imo Essien was injured at Georgia State. Jones said Saturday’s game was a good lesson for him.
When a team clogs the lane like App State, Jones said Jenkins must start looking for his teammates.
“You might not be able to continue to the rim, but if you draw two or three guys on you, you can kick it out and you’ve made life easier for your teammates,” Jones said.
ODU hits the road next week on their most difficult stretch of the season, with six of the next eight games on the road, and then home games against Southern Miss (Feb. 22) and Marshall (Feb. 24), two of the Sun Belt’s best teams.
“We’ll lick our wounds and watch film and practice,” Jones said. “The big thing is sticking together. Nothing good can happen with coming apart.
“We left the locker room together. We’re coming back to the locker room together as well.”
Jenkins agreed that’s a key to survive the tough stretch ahead.
“We stayed together tonight,” he said. “We continued throughout the second half to talk to each other and pass positive things along. But we would chip away at the lead, and they would hit big shots.
“Road games are always tough. But I know we are a tough team. So, we’re going to find a way.”