Monarch Men’s Basketball Sets Sights on Regular Season After Exhibition Win

By Noah Fort, Associate Sports Editor

Originally published November 6, 2021.


In their home exhibition against Gannon University, the Old Dominion University Men’s Basketball team performed very well. They annihilated Gannon, beating them by 40 points (96-46). They finished the first half slowly, leading by just eight points (41-33), but would go on to finish the second half strong as they finished with 32 more points than Gannon (55-23). The team captains Jaylin Hunter and Kalu Ezikpe both put on a show. Hunter scored 13 points and had six defensive rebounds, while Kalu captured a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds.


After tonight’s performance, it looks as though Hunter will have a breakout year. Just last year, he was a role player coming off of the bench. Now, he’s a starter and co-captain. When asked about having a breakout year, Hunter said “Yes, the goal is to have a type of breakout year. I just know I put in a lot of work this summer and I put in a lot of work with my teammates. So I think I just wanna be the best player I can be. Obviously being a co-captain, a lot of leadership falls on my shoulders.”


Other than a breakout year, there is one common goal that Hunter and the Monarchs have – winning. Their main goal is to get to the conference championship and win it. “Most importantly, I just wanna win games. We wanna win, our goal obviously is to get a conference championship,” he said. With packed arenas the Monarchs will be able to do just that as they provide Hunter and his team with the energy that they need. Hunter mentioned that having fans back was great. “Oh, it was great. I mean it is just a different energy in the air that you need. You just need it in order to play at your best. Having the fans back there was great and I’m just glad that they’re back,” said Hunter.


In addition to winning, the Monarchs were explosive on the defensive end in tonight’s win. They caused 16 turnovers in which they would go on to score 20 points off of. They were strong on the glass as well, grabbing a total of 38 defensive rebounds. When asked about the team’s defensive prowess, Coach Jones stated, “Yeah well you know defense is always kind of our bread and butter. We pride ourselves on being stingy, being tough, and working hard at that end. It’s kind of a blue collar mentality. Getting guys, you know all of the guys, to buy in is always a positive. I think that’s what you saw in the second half.”


Overall, he was pleased with his team’s performance. When asked about his expectations on the team’s performance, he felt that could’ve been better done in the first half of play by the Monarchs. In the first half, they shot 59.3 percent from the field, 63.6 percent from the free throw line, and 22.2 percent behind the arc. “I expected a lot more from them in the first half. You know we were better than that, we need to be better than that in a bunch of different areas,” said Jones.


He went on to say “But you know, after a very honest conversation at halftime, they came out collectively. It wasn’t one or two guys. They came out and obviously we’re a different team. Whatever it was, it was really good. So that was, you know, really pleasing to see.” That honest conversation that coach had with the team at halftime definitely made a difference because the Monarchs did way better from behind the arc (75.0 percent) and at the free throw line (87.5 percent) in the second half.

Coach also mentioned someone that we shouldn’t overlook, and that is 6’7 guard Mekhi Long. Long is a sophomore transfer from Rhode Island. He had a stellar performance tonight, scoring 10 points and grabbing nine rebounds. He was one rebound shy of getting a double-double. Of Long’s performance, Coach Jones felt that he was the only player that stayed consistent in the first half and has been playing his tail off. Long is a player that remains under the radar but is doing a lot for the team, according to Jones.


In the end, Coach Jones was also happy to see the fans back in Chartway Arena. He said “I liked the big crowd today. I thought it was solid and the people that were here were into it. Hopefully, everybody that was here will talk to their friends and their family and word of mouth we’ll get a big crowd in here on Wednesday.” This Wednesday, the Monarchs will open for their regular season against Virginia Wesleyan at 7 p.m. It will take place at the Chartway Arena.