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ODU Men's Basketball Team Gets a Hard-Fought, Much Needed Win at George Mason

Rafael Suanes/GMU Athletics

By Harry Minium

FAIRFAX, Va. – The Old Dominion men's basketball team desperately needed a victory and earned one Saturday night with an inspired and physical in-your face defensive effort typical of a Jeff Jones-coached team.

The Monarchs held George Mason without a field goal for a nine-minute stretch of the second half, held the Patriots 25 points under their average and claimed a 60-50 victory at EagleBank Arena.

Still recovering from pneumonia, Jones was on the bench and was back to as close to normal as he's been since early November, screaming and exhorting his team as usual. 

The Monarchs (4-5) had lost four of their last five games and defeated Longwood for their lone victory on a Mekhi Long layup at the buzzer. George Mason (4-5) had lost four in a row, all on the road, but had a marquee 71-66 victory at Maryland on November 17.

C.J. Keyser, the transfer from North Carolina Central, led ODU with 19 points, and made a key basket late in the second half that ended a Monarch scoring drought.

"You've got to give coach Jones super credit," Keyser said. " He's dealing with pneumonia but he's here, he doesn't quit on us.

"He's a tough dude."  
Point guard Jaylin Hunter added 16 points, in spite of playing the final minutes with four fouls, and Kalu Ezikpe had 10 points, eight rebounds and a key blocked shot that helped the Monarchs salt the victory away.

Long had 11 points and nine rebounds and played stellar defense against George Mason's D'Shawn Schwartz, who made just 3 of 10 shots and scored eight.

"He's a really good player and had to work for all eight points," Jones said. "Mekhi did a fantastic job."

Schwartz gave the Patriots their last lead of the game, 29-27, 47 seconds into the second half. 
The Patriots did not score another field goal until the 10:14 mark, when Josh Oduro made a short jumper. By then, ODU held a 9-point lead it would not relinquish.

Keyser's 3-pointer with 8:59 gave ODU a 13-point lead, 48-35. Keyser made a short jump shot with 8:10 left that again built the lead to 13.

But then the Monarchs went stone cold, missing their next seven shots and George Mason's Devon Cooper cut the lead to five, 50-45.

Keyser then broke the cold spell, making a jumper just outside the free throw line to give ODU a 52-45 lead with 1:37 left.

Ezikpe then blocked an attempted layup by Oduro, and followed with two free throws with 66 seconds left to build the lead to 54-45.

Hunter iced the game with two free throws with 56 seconds left.

As the game ended, and the Monarchs exited the court, several hundred ODU fans in the crowd of 3,529 were heard chanting "ODU." 

"You can have the perfect game plan but if they're not out their busting their rear ends, it's not going to work," Jones said.

"Our guys worked. We really got after it."

Keyser said the victory will give the team a lift heading into its final four non-conference games.

"It was our first road win and came against a great Atlantic 10 team," he said. "We needed this win to build some momentum."

The Monarchs next play Tuesday night at William & Mary. ODU then hosts archrival VCU on Saturday, Dec. 11. It is a white out game and fans are asked to wear white.

Jones said the victory gave the Monarchs an emotional boost. 

"It's one thing to say 'just hang in there we'll be fine,'" Jones said. "It's another thing to win. Winning lifts a cloud.

"I think this should make us more excited about practice tomorrow."

ODU faces a quick turnaround before Tuesday's game in Williamsburg with only two days of practice to prepare for the Tribe.