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ODU Men's Basketball Second-Half Rally Comes Up Short Against JMU

Bruce Butler

R.J. Blakney dunked two of his eight points on this second-half dunk.

By Harry Minium
NORFOLK, Va. – The Old Dominion men's basketball team played hard, if not always well, against a superably talented James Madison team and mounted a late rally that gave the Dukes something of a scare.
After watching what had been a 25-point lead narrowed by ODU to 11, JMU pulled away in the final minutes and claimed a 78-62 victory over the Monarchs before 6,701 at Chartway Arena.
The loss came four nights after the Monarchs (5-15 overall, 1-7 Sun Belt) lost at home to Louisiana-Monroe, which had lost nine games in a row, 80-73. Afterwards, interim head coach Kieran Donohue, and several players, acknowledged the team lost largely because of a lack of effort.
But there was no lack of effort on Wednesday. The Monarchs played hard and aggressively on defense. But the Dukes (18-2 overall, 7-1) won, as they have much of the season, with non-stop pick and rolls and skillful passing.
The Monarchs trailed by 11 points, 32-21, with 4:25 left in the first half when JMU's offense took control.
The Dukes closed out the first half with a 12-0 run as the Monarchs missed five shots, a foul shot and committed two turnovers. In the last 46 seconds, JMU's T.J. Bickerstaff had a layup on a set play, then made a steal and had a layup to give the Dukes their 23-point halftime lead.
Donohue pronounced himself pleased with the effort in the second half, but said "we dug ourselves into too big of a hole in the first half to come all the way back.
 "I thought we started the game playing very well. We were playing very hard," he said.
"We were battling. We were competing. We were defending.
"And then somewhere in there, the wheels definitely came off defensively. And no matter what defense we were playing, we weren't able to guard them in anything."
Freshman guard Vasean Allette came off the bench to lead ODU with 15 points. Tyrone Williams added 14 and Chaunce Jenkins 10.
Jenkins, the first-team All-Sun Belt preseason choice, was often double teamed and had trouble finding open looks. He was 4-of-8 from the floor.
After making 27 percent of their shots in the first half, the Monarchs made 15 of 29 (51.7 percent) in the second half. The Dukes outrebounded ODU, 44-37, and shared the ball more generously, with 22 assists to ODU's 11. The Monarchs had just two assists in the first half.
JMU led at the half, 44-21, and appeared to be coasting in the second half when the Monarchs fought their way back into the game.
The Dukes still led by 22 points, 63-41, midway through the second half when the Monarchs went on a 9-0 run and trimmed the lead to 13 on an R.J. Blakney steal and layup with 7:41 left.
ODU's Jenkins made two free throws with 3:47 left to trim the margin to 11 points, 69-58.

"At that point, we we're looking to make a stop, we needed some stops," said Blakney, a junior transfer from Dayton who had eight points, three steals and three blocked shots.
"We needed to put pressure on them."
But it didn't happen. JMU's Bickerstaff made a driving layup to build the lead back to 13. Then, over the next two minutes, the Monarchs missed twice and Julien Wooden, who led the Dukes with 23 points, made back-to-back layups to push JMU to a 17-point lead and back in control of the game.
Both teams played hard in what was a physical contest in which the referees let both teams go at each other. And at times, emotions boiled over.
Early in the second half, JMU's Terrence Edwards Jr. pushed Blakney to the floor and was assessed a double technical and kicked out of the game.
"It was an intense game," Blakney said. "Tempers were flaring.

"That's part of a rivalry game, so we embrace it. It was fun. Obviously, we wanted to win, but at the end of the day, we competed, and that's all we ask for."
Donohue said the second-half comeback is something he hopes the Monarchs can build on.
"That's what we asked them to do, to come out in the second half and play hard," he said. "It's what we challenged them to do, and to their credit, they responded and did that in the second half."
The Monarchs next host Georgia Southern Saturday at 7 p.m. in the second half of the doubleheader with the ODU women's team, which hosts Georgia State at 1 p.m.
Both are designated as alumni games, with alumni set to be introduced at halftime of both games.