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ODU Basketball Team Shoots 67 Percent in Second Half and Routs Manhattan, 79-58

Keith Lucas

By Harry Minium

NORFOLK, Va. – Two days after a cold-shooting, low-scoring loss at James Madison, the Old Dominion basketball team regained its shooting touch, as well as its up-tempo mojo, in a blowout victory over Manhattan College.

The Monarchs got 18 points and an outstanding floor game from point guard Jaylin Hunter, and made 67 percent of their shots in the second half, to hand the Jaspers a 79-58 drubbing Monday night at Chartway Arena.

Hunter also had six assists and three steals and made all four three-point shots he attempted in 36 minutes. Austin Trice also scored 18 points and Kalu Ezikpe 15 points and four blocked shots.

ODU (2-1) got off to a poor start, so poor that coach Jeff Jones briefly benched Hunter, Charles Smith IV and C.J. Keyser. Unlike the 58-53 loss at JMU, a physical game in which both teams played hard if not always well, Jones said the Monarchs hit the floor lethargically Monday.  

"We just weren't mentally there," Jones said. "I wanted to wake them up a little bit."

"We weren't in attack mode, we were taking the first shot available and the ball wasn't moving. If it weren't for Kalu out there, he was the one guy for us who played at a high level and kind of kept us in it, blocking shots and working really hard. 

"Eventually, we started playing better, started understanding how the game needed to be played and we just gradually took control of the game. Down the stretch we played good basketball. We played as a good basketball team should."

ODU trailed by seven after shooting poorly in the game's first 10 minutes and scored just 14 points. But the Monarchs exploded for 65 points over the final 30 minutes.

Ezikpe made two short shots and then Keyser drained a three-pointer to give the Monarchs a 25-24 lead with 3:11 to go.

Hunter made a 3-point shot, then stole a pass and made one of two foul shots to build the lead to five, 33-28, with 53 seconds left. A.J. Oliver's two foul shots with 13.7 seconds gave ODU a 35-30 lead at the half. 

ODU advanced the lead to double digits, 55-44, with 13:22 left when Hunter lobbed a point pass to Keyser, who did a one-handed tomahawk dunk shot that brought the crowd of 4,412 to its feet.

Mekhi Long's two-handed fast-break dunk, followed by an acrobatic hook shot from Keyser, built the lead to 63-49, and the Monarchs pulled away from there.

"The chemistry is coming along," Hunter said. "We're getting there."

Manhattan (2-1) took several timeouts in an effort to stop ODU runs, and before heading to the bench, players exhorted fans in the student section to make noise. Oliver blew kisses to the crowd, Keyser flexed his muscles and others were waved for the crowd to stand up. 

Each time, the crowd responded and gave the Monarchs standing ovations.

"You can tell they love the crowd," Jones said. "They're having so much fun with it this year.

"That's not really my thing but I don't want to take the fun out of it. As long as it doesn't detract from their focus, it's great they are engaging with the fans."

Jones upgraded ODU's outside shooting talent by recruting in the offseason and said after an 80-60 victory in the team's opener last week that he intended to play an up-tempo style. He added that he hopes ODU fans will take notice and that the crowds will have fun.

"I think it was another entertaining game," Jones said. "There weren't many times when we walked the ball up the floor."

Hunter said when he passed to Keyser, he didn't expect to see a tomahawk dunk.

"I didn't know he could get up like that," Hunter said. "He brought that almost to his foot."

Hunter said he and his teammates are loving having fans back in the stands after playing during the pandemic last season, when crowds were limited to no more than 250 fans who were social distancing and wearing masks.

"We're just excited to see the fans again," he said. "It was like a ghost town, it was very quiet last year. We were just feeding off that energy."

ODU travels to Conway, South Carolina Tuesday to prepare for the Myrtle Beach Invitational at Coastal Carolina University. ODU meets Indiana State Thursday at 9:30 in the first of three games in four days for the Monarchs.

ODU will meet either Oklahoma or East Carolina on Friday and then Sunday, take on one of four teams in the other bracket: Davidson, New Mexico State, Penn or Utah State. The tournament is sponsored by ESPN Events and every game will be televised on an ESPN outlet.

ODU's opener against Indiana State will be televised by ESPNU.

"It was definitely nice to rebound with a comfortable win against a quality team before going on this long bus ride," Jones said.