ODU Lose Heartbreaker in OT Against UTEP 78-70

By Benjamin Draper, Sports Editor

It was a tough evening for the men’s basketball team. The Monarchs 7-8(2-0 C-USA) welcomed the University of Texas El-Paso 8-8(1-3 C-USA) into Norfolk. ODU came into the weekend matchup on back to back victories and were looking to go for three-straight. Almost about 4,600 were in attendance for the conference matchup.


The ball was tipped-off and the game was underway where UTEP came out with an early score inside the first minute. Senior Mekhi Long gets the Monarchs on the board hitting one of his two free throws after being fouled. The Miners would retaliate with a mid-range jump shot to make it 4-1 UTEP. It did not take long for ODU to respond as junior Kalu Ezikpe found his rhythm early, with a layup that put the score back to one. Both teams would battle back and forth for the next few minutes while the Miners maintained their lead, but the Monarchs would earn the first advantage after Ezikpe got another layup to make it 13-12 ODU. UTEP would go on a quick 7-2 scoring run in the next few minutes of the half to regain their lead 19-15.


On the next possession, Long ties it up at 19 after nailing a tough layup. The Miners would go back down court and sink a 3-pointer to lead 22-19 with under four minutes to go in the half. Junior Austin Trice was a busy man at the free throw line and was fouled late in the half that gave the Monarchs an opportunity to tie it again. He made both free throws and the score stood at 22 until the Miners went back down court and sank another shot to retake the lead 24-22. Sophomore Jaylin Hunter tied it back up again with a long mid-range jump shot with under two minutes in the half. Both teams scored again before the half and went into the break tied at 26. ODU was shooting the ball poorly, having gone 7-23 in the half on shots, but luckily they got to the line and sank 12-16 of their free throws to keep the game in reach.


The Monarchs came out of the break with an early score to regain the lead. UTEP would even up the game at 28. On the next ODU possession, Trice got fouled going to the basket and sank two more free throws to make it 30-28 ODU. The Miners got another bucket on their next possession and it was tied again at 30. In the next few minutes of the second half, UTEP began to pull away after going on a 10-4 scoring run to make it 41-34. The Monarchs got another pair of free throws from Keyser and a 3-pointer from Hunter that cut the Miners lead to 43-39. The game was tight and ODU was very reliant on scoring from the free throw line to keep the matchup close. Both teams would keep up the scoring on both ends of the floor as the game stood at 50-48 UTEP with about eight minutes to go. The Miners got a comfortable 8 point lead after going on a 6-0 run with a made 3-pointer and two more buckets.


After being down 56-48, the Monarchs went on a 15-0 scoring run that propelled them in a comfortable position. They now led by seven points after Keyser made both of his free throws to finish off the run that left the crown on its feet. The game seemed that it would go the Monarchs way, but that wasn’t the case. The Miners scored seven unanswered points in the final minute of the game that was neck-and-neck at 63. ODU had an opportunity to win it on the final shot, but the bucket did not go down and the game was headed to overtime.


The game stood even at the beginning of Overtime, but after a mid-range jumper from Keyser to tie the game at 67, the Miners began to pull away. Solely Boum, who was the leading scorer for UTEP with 28 points, nailed a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws on the next few possessions that gave the Miners a 74-67 lead with under a minute left. UTEP outscored ODU 11-3 in the final two minutes of the OT and went on to win 78-70 over Old Dominion.


The Monarchs finished the evening shooting 17-5(31.5 percent) and went 35-47(74.5 percent) from the free throw line. It was not a good night at the 3-point line because the Monarchs only made 1-15(6.7 percent). Both Trice and Ezikpe finished the night with 19 points and an assist. Kalu also racked up seven rebounds. The two combined to make ten of their 18 shots whereas the rest of the ODU roster only made seven of their 36 shots, just under 20 percent. Hunter finished the evening with 12 points, four rebounds and five assists. Keyser had 11 points with an assist in the loss.


In the post game presser, Head Coach Jeff Jones shared his thoughts on the ending of that game and the performances from Trice and Ezikpe that they could look to build off of more. “It just didn’t happen for us down the stretch,” Jones said. “Austin was a beast, he’s been playing great basketball. The duo of Austin and Kalu is something we’re going to be working on as we go forward more and more.”


Old Dominion falls to 7-9(2-1 C-USA) and are back on the road for the next three games when they travel to Rice on Jan. 20, North Texas on Jan. 22 and Charlotte on Jan. 26. The next time the Monarchs are in Norfolk will be on Jan. 29 when they host Charlotte.