By Ken Cross
Old Dominion’s 88-66 win over the Charlotte 49ers on Saturday night sets up a showdown with Middle Tennessee on Thursday night as both games will come in tied with Western Kentucky in the loss column with one loss. To get there, the Monarchs had to focus and pay attention to detail to dispatch the hardworking 49ers, who have struggled mightily this season.
“We told them as we left the pregame meal, ‘Make sure you bring it’ and energy without focus sometimes doesn’t present the result you want,” said Monarchs coach Jeff Jones, who has seen ODU start at 16-4 and 7-1 in Conference USA.
As leading scorer, B.J. Stith was beseiged with foul trouble in the first half, senior guard Randy Haynes stepped up with 24 points in converting 9-of-18 shots with four threes. He was complemented by the inside play of Trey Porter, who netted 21 points and got to the free throw line 11 times.
The X-factor though was the 17-rebound performance by Brandon Stith. He was an impossible matchup in the paint for the 49ers’ with his 6-7, 240-pound frame and his activity around the basket where he was able to slam three dunks off rebounds and ignite momentum.
“Brandon was magnificent,” said Jones, now in his fifth season at ODU, “He was flying all over the place, getting rebounds outside of his range. Other than BJ, who was in foul trouble, we had a bunch of guys who really played well.”
— Monarch Media (@MonarchMediaODU) January 28, 2018
Haynes was able to get into the lane and score as he scored 13 in the first half as he spread his scoring consistently throughout his 35 minutes. Porter was equally as active in the paint as Stith in getting to the line 11 times and making nine. He scored eight of his 21 in the middle portals of the second half as the Monarchs built a 69-48 margin with 8:20 to play.
Jones had been concerned about the loss of leads as they dropped games against VCU and Western Kentucky where they had and maintained leads. He used game clips of stretches where opponents got back into games to highlight what he wanted his veteran team to do.
“I wanted them to see what it took to get there and what are we trained to do when the teams…what ends up being the biggest lead of the game, they call timeout and how dow we respond?” Jones said, “Good teams will respond. We saw on film finishes that could be coincidental.”
Developing a tough mantra is key and will play a huge role this upcoming weekend when Old Dominion welcomes the Blue Raiders and UAB into Norfolk.
“Toughness can show in different ways,” he said, “It doesn’t have to be a lot. These are the plays where we are careless with the ball and how we have live ball turnovers and the other team is going down and scoring.”
Th Monarchs opened a quick 8-3 lead as they used a 15-2 run to open a 31-16 lead as Ahmad Caver and Haynes combined for 13 of the 15 points. After Charlotte closed the Monarchs’ lead to 40-34 at the half, Haynes and Caver hit a couple of quick triples in the first three and a half minute as ODU stretched the lead back to 52-37 and never trailed.
Stith’s rebound performance a career high as he and Porter combine for an average of 15 boards per game.
“You have to stay poised and basketball is a game of runs and you have to play through the runs when they go on runs like that,” noted Stith, “The averages always come into play. It’s a team sport, if I don’t score, I am not upset because it is not all about me. It’s about Old Dominion. we got the win that’s all that really matters.”