Old Dominion Edges Norfolk State 68-62 in Exciting City Matchup

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Elena Harris

Junior Guard Charles Smith IV locks it down on defense late in the game against Norfolk State.

Benjamin Draper, Sports Editor

In front of a near-sellout crowd of 7,966, the Old Dominion men’s basketball team earned a gritty 68-62 victory over their in-city companions Norfolk State on an evening where the game could’ve gone either way. It was the largest crowd at Chartway Arena since 2018 when 8,172 people watched ODU defeat VCU 62-52.

Senior center Ben Stanley fends off the defensive pressure as he looks to receive the incoming pass from senior guard Tyreek Scott-Grayson. (Elena Harris )

The last time these two schools met was in 2020 when ODU earned an 80-66 victory over the Spartans on their home court. ODU leads the series 15-6 overall. 

Once everyone had filed to their seats and both teams took center stage, it was time for tip-off. The Spartans were the first to get on the board, but junior forward Derricko Williams returned the favor to tie the game to two. After the NSU miss, Williams drove it into the paint and tallied two more to give ODU the 4-2 advantage. Both teams nailed shots on both sides of the floor as the game stood at 11-10 in favor of the Monarchs. Norfolk State threatened to break the game open as the Spartans drained two three-pointers and a breakaway dunk from their 6-foot-9-inch center Kris Bankston, who is deemed an NBA prospect, to take a 19-10 lead. The dunk from Bankston brought the Spartan fans into an uproar and forced ODU to call a timeout to break NSU’s newly sparked momentum. 

The Spartans maintained a 23-15 midway through the first half, but the Monarchs clawed back with eight unanswered points to tie the game with seven minutes left. The scoring run was highlighted by a layup from junior guard Mekhi Long, a three-pointer from freshman guard Bryce Baker and three free throws made. NSU regained their lead by scoring the next four points, but ODU was able to hang around while the Spartans led 29-25 after sophomore guard Chaunce Jenkins took it upon himself to score the last three points in the half. Norfolk State led 29-28 at the break. 

Junior guard Mekhi Long stares down at his opponent after jamming down the two-handed slam dunk. (Elena Harris )

At the start of the second half, the Monarchs took the lead after senior forward Ben Stanley converted both free throws. The Spartans retaliated with a 6-0 run to gain the four-point advantage, and they continued to hold their lead throughout the first ten minutes of the second half. As NSU led 43-37, ODU was able to nail a pair of three-pointers from Jenkins and senior guard Tyreek Scott-Grayson that tied the game at 43. On the ensuing Norfolk State possession, they sank a three-pointer to regain the 46-43 advantage. 

The Spartans led most of the game and held a 53-51 advantage, but the NSU offensive started to go cold and the Monarchs saw their opportunity. Jenkins tied the score with a layup and then drilled a three-pointer with 5:42 left to give the Monarchs the 56-53 lead. It was their first lead since the opening minutes of the second half. ODU led 56-55 before scoring the next six points, beginning with a Jenkins-made jump shot. Scott-Grayson nailed a three-pointer along with Williams, who tallied a fast-break layup, bringing the Monarch lead to 62-55 with two minutes left to play. 

Norfolk State started to battle back from the free-throw line. A late three-pointer brought the ODU lead to 64-62 with 23 seconds left to play. Being forced to foul, the Spartans had to hope that sophomore guard Imo Essien would miss his free throws, but he drained both shots and elicited a thunderous ovation from the Monarch crowd. ODU was able to fend off the late pressure from the Spartans and won 68-62.  With the victory, the Monarchs improved their record to 5-4 on the season.

Sophomore guard Chaunce Jenkins greets his teammates at the bench after nailing a late three-pointer to secure the victory. (Elena Harris )

An important factor in the victory was the ODU bench’s performance. The Monarchs were able to score 28 points to the 13 points from the NSU bench. Old Dominion was led by Jenkins, who finished the evening with 23 points, five rebounds and two assists in 34 minutes on the floor. Long tallied 13 points, two steals and blocks, along with three rebounds. 

After the game, head coach Jeff Jones did not hold back praise for their opponent while acknowledging that gaining the victory was not an easy task against a talented school that’s only four miles away. 

“It was an extremely hard-fought game. It was an emotional win against a quality team,” Jones stated. “They’ve got a really good team, and they get to play their conference tournament at home (at the Norfolk Scope). I think they’ve got a good shot at winning their conference for a third time, which would be a heck of an accomplishment.”

Next up for the ODU squad is two home games this week, featuring a matchup against another in-state foe: William & Mary. Tip-off is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m. Old Dominion will then host Gardner-Webb on Saturday, Dec. 10, with an 8 p.m. start time.