Monarchs Come Up Short in Royal Rivalry Against JMU; Look Ahead to Georgia Southern


Elena Harris

Junior guard Makhi Long dribbles past his defender as he drives the paint for the layup.

By Benjamin Draper, Sports Editor

An atmosphere of excitement filled Chartway Arena on Thursday evening as the ODU men’s basketball team welcomed in-state rival James Madison for its first Royal Rivalry matchup after both schools joined the Sun Belt Conference. When it comes to men’s basketball, these two programs have a storied history that spans back to the early 70s, when the Monarchs led the all-time series 58-29. That evening, the Dukes gained the upper hand and defeated Old Dominion 78-73 in a matchup where they led the entire way.

Senior guard Tyreek Scott-Grayson nails the three-pointer and lets the crowd know. (Elena Harris )

In front of an exuberant crowd of almost 7,700, the Dukes struck the first blows in the contest, opening up with a 9-0 scoring run. The scoring drought didn’t end for ODU until senior guard Tyreek Scott-Grayson made a shot from beyond the arc. On the ensuing possession, JMU retaliated with a three-pointer of their own to extend their lead to 12-3. After a few minutes of no scoring, junior guard Mekhi Long found his way into the paint and earned a layup to cut the deficit to seven points. 

Both teams traded baskets on the ensuing possessions as the score remained 14-7 in favor of JMU, but it was a 7-0 scoring run that broke the game wide open by bringing the advantage to 14 points. The Monarchs were paying the price for their sluggish start as the Dukes made their presence felt on the court. James Madison dominated throughout the first half, but as the Dukes led 31-20, sophomore guard Imo Essien tallied back-to-back jump shots for the Monarchs to cut the score to 31-24. JMU tallied another four points in the half before Scott-Grayson brought the crowd to its feet with a buzzer-beating three to end the half. The Dukes led 35-27 at the break. 

Although ODU got their teeth kicked in at the start of the game, they returned the favor at the beginning of the second half. Freshman guard Bryce Baker got things started for the Monarchs when he drained a three-pointer, but Long made it a one-possession ballgame after converting the layup. JMU added a pair of free throws to maintain a 37-32 advantage, but sophomore guard Chaunce Jenkins drained the jump shot to cut the deficit to three. On the next ODU possession after the JMU layup, Long brought a roar out of the arena after nailing the three-pointer to bring the game within two. 

Sophomore guard Chaunce Jenkins throws up the long jump shot. (Elena Harris )

As the Dukes led 42-38 with 15 minutes left to play, Long sank another shot from beyond the arc to bring the game within one, which was the closest the Monarchs would come to taking the lead. The Monarchs kept pace with JMU throughout the first part of the second half, but in a span of four possessions for the Dukes, James Madison busted the game open again with three successful three-pointers to make it 60-53. Essien returned the favor on the ensuing ODU possession to cut the game to within four, but James Madison maintained their distance with a quick 5-0 scoring run. Jenkins drained a three-pointer and a pair of free throws to keep the Monarchs within reach as time dwindled down. 

In the later stages of the game, ODU decided to go with a full-court press on the defensive side, but they wound up giving easy breakaway baskets that gave the Dukes the edge. James Madison led 75-69 with just 20 seconds to play when Jenkins tallied two more baskets for the Monarchs to cut the lead to 76-73. With only three seconds to play, JMU inbounded the ball successfully and went to the foul line to add a pair of free throws, ending the game at 78-73.

In 36 minutes on the court, Jenkins led the way for the Monarchs with 19 points and five assists while Long knotted himself a double-double with 14 points and ten rebounds in 35 minutes. Both Scott-Grayson and Essien tied for 19 points and four assists coming off the bench. 

Junior forward Derricko Williams comes to his feet to throw up the three signal after the Monarchs nailed the shot from beyond the arc. (Elena Harris )

After the game, head coach Jeff Jones shared his thoughts on the outcome and acknowledged that the Dukes were the better team. He mentioned that the sluggish start to the game played a pivotal role in the defeat when the opposition was draining their shots.

“My hats off to James Madison. They just played better than us tonight,” Jones stated. “They came out and established themselves as the aggressor and we didn’t really have much of a response. The problem is, when you get down to a good team, a veteran team, and a team that exhibited shot-making the way they did tonight, you know, it’s hard to climb up that mountain.”

With the defeat, the Monarchs fell to 13-10 (5-6 Sun Belt) on the season as the Dukes improved their record to 16-8 (7-4 Sun Belt). There are only seven regular season games left to play as Old Dominion shifts their focus to Georgia Southern, who they’ll meet this evening for Alumni Night. The team will sport their Hudson Blue uniforms against the Eagles as they look to bounce back into the win column. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m..