After gritty win over Rice, ODU prepares for Louisiana Tech

  • Pin It

Monarchs coach discusses grueling practice that followed loss at Tulsa.

NORFOLK — Maybe it was the near-silent flight home from "the debacle at Tulsa" last weekend. Or the pointed video review and grueling practices that followed.

Regardless of incentive, Old Dominion's basketball team surely didn't have the stomach for another half-baked effort and the subsequent consequences.

Not to suggest that the Monarchs' 55-51 Conference USA victory over Rice on Thursday was a Renoir. As art, this was paint-by-numbers.

But for want-to and staying power — ODU trailed 49-42 with 6:47 remaining before outscoring the Owls 13-2 to close — the Monarchs received high marks.

" I was extremely pleased," said forward Richard Ross, the game's top scorer and rebounder with 18 points and 10 boards. "One of the things that jumped out at me, I mixed a boxout, and Keenan (Palmore) comes across and grabs a huge rebound over a guy that's 4-5 inches taller and probably has 100 pounds on him. We emphasized rebounding a whole lot. Seeing things like that lets you know practicing hard really does pay off."

A 6-foot-1 guard, Palmore also made a diving save of a stray second-half rebound to give his team an extra possession, a hustle play that paid dividends when Denzel Taylor made a free throw with 4:21 remaining.

"Not only was that a good thing for us, it got the crowd into the game," ODU coach Jeff Jones said of Palmore's play. "You really noticed the crowd, because there really hadn't been much to cheer for in the second half. The crowd responded to Keenan's effort and it kind of infused some life into his teammates as well."

The Monarchs had been lifeless in their most recent outing, a 76-37 loss at Tulsa that Jones calls a "debacle" and that ranks among the worst offensive performances in program history. ODU's top scorer at 16 points per game, Aaron Bacote called Jones' video critique of the Tulsa game "brutal," with Bacote the target of especially harsh criticism.

And why not? He went scoreless in 26 minutes, missing eight shots in the process.

"I appreciate it," Bacote said of Jones' ire. "I'm not going to take anything personal."

The question was, how would the Monarchs respond to their first-year coach who, as a point guard at Virginia during the early 1980s, was nothing if not a grinder?

Well, ODU certainly made matters difficult by shooting 38.2 percent overall and missing 19-of-22 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc, including its first 10 of the second half. But the Monarchs punished the Owls (7-18, 2-10), Conference USA's worst rebounding team, on the glass 43-31, 13-4 on the offensive end.

Palmore (10), Ambrose Mosley (seven) and Dimitri Batten (five), none of whom is taller than 6-foot-3, combined for 22 boards. That's effort. That's how you overcome a poor shooting night.

"Their response in the practices I thought was exactly what we would have wanted it to be," Jones said. "These guys probably thought Monday's practice was tough, but some of the teams I coached at American and certainly the ones that I coached at Virginia would probably be angry with me for letting these guys off easy. We got after it. It wasn't about Rice. … It was about establishing how we needed to be ready to play. … It was all about toughness, it was all about energy and effort."

Still, someone, anyone, needed to make a clutch shot. A redshirt freshman, Mosley was an unlikely candidate, enduring an 0-for-7 evening. But with 2:45 remaining and Rice leading 49-47, Mosley launched a 3-pointer from the right wing, just in front of ODU's bench.

The shot swished as Mosley posed on his follow-through.

"It takes a lot of guts to take it, and make it," Jones said.

The victory keeps the Monarchs (13-14, 7-5 CUSA) on track for a possible winning record, a lofty aim after last season's 5-25 wreckage. But Saturday's home game against Louisiana Tech is a serious roadblock, the Bulldogs' surprising Thursday loss at East Carolina notwithstanding.

Tech (21-6, 9-3) presses full-court and ranks fourth nationally in scoring at 83.6 points per game. The Bulldogs are deep, balanced and lead the conference in steals, assists and turnover margin. They also boast one of CUSA's best non-conference wins, a December overtime conquest of Oklahoma.

"It's late February," Jones said, "and you get to play a game that matters. It's exciting."

David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP.

  • Pin It