ODU squeaks past Rice

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NORFOLK, Va. — What’s a team to do when it needs 3-pointers to fall but is experiencing a night when they are just not falling?

If you are the Old Dominion Monarchs, you just keep pulling the trigger.

Monarchs guard Ambrose Mosley made his team’s only 3-pointer of the second half at just the right time Thursday night, and it helped Old Dominion rally past the Rice Owls 55-51 at the Constant Convocation Center.

The Monarchs led 38-31 midway through the second half before Rice used a 15-2 spurt to vault in front. The Owls went on to lead by seven, but the Monarchs chipped away and finally pulled even when Mosley buried his 3-pointer with 2:38 remaining. Astonishing on a night in which the Monarchs missed their first eight 3-pointers and were 0 of 10 from distance in the second half when Mosley let it fly.

“We were in a little bit of a dilemma,” Monarchs coach Jeff Jones said. “We were getting some wide open looks and they just weren’t going in. So I didn’t want to tell them to quit taking the 3-point shots because you never know when one of the guys might hit a big one.”

It was also the only made field goal of the night for Mosley, who finished 1 of 8 from the field.

Two free throws by guard Max Guercy gave Rice its final lead of the night, but a layup by Monarchs forward Richard Ross with 2:04 left put Old Dominion ahead to stay at 52-51.

From there, both teams stumbled to the finish line. The Monarchs made just 3 of 6 free throws in the final minute, but it was enough against a Rice team that misfired badly down the stretch. Guard Austin Ramljak missed the front end of a one-and-one with 55 seconds left, and forward Sean Obi and guard Marcus Jackson both failed to connect on uncontested layups inside the final 30 seconds.

“We had great opportunities and we got Austin to the line,” Rice coach Ben Braun said. “Obviously we wanted to make those shots. And then Sean gets a great look at the basket and they pretty much conceded it to him. I think he rushed himself and missed pretty much a point-blank shot.”

Ross finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds as Old Dominion (13-14, 7-5 Conference USA) prevailed despite 38.2 percent shooting and a 3-for-22 effort from 3-point range. Still, Jones was thrilled with the result.

“We’re not having any of this hang our heads stuff because we didn’t play well,” Jones said. “We didn’t play well. But that’s a good win.”

Obi had 11 points and 10 rebounds and Guercy scored 10 to pace the Owls (7-18, 2-10). Rice fell to 0-6 in conference road games.

“I thought we had a good second half defensively, holding them to 23 points and 31 percent shooting,” Braun said. “It was the little things that cost us.”

Old Dominion guard Keenan Palmore (nine points, 10 rebounds) scored four points in a 6-0 spurt to close the first half, and the Monarchs went into the break ahead 32-25.

The Owls pulled within a point at 26-25 on a layup by Obi.

Ross led all players with 12 first-half points. Ross also got the game off to a emphatic start after 23 seconds when he soared to collect a rebound and powered it through the rim with both hands. Old Dominion rode that momentum to an early nine-point edge. It was one of two crowd-pleasing dunks by Ross in the opening half.

Palmore had nine first-half points for Old Dominion, which shot 42.1 percent from the field.

Obi and Guercy each scored eight first-half points to lead Rice, which shot just 37.5 percent from the field before intermission.

NOTES: Both teams came in off 39-point conference road losses Saturday. Rice fell 85-46 at Louisiana Tech, while Old Dominion took a 76-37 beating from Tulsa. … The 37 points Old Dominion mustered against the Golden Hurricane were the fewest in a single game in the program’s Division I history. … The Owls’ last road win was a 67-66 decision at Santa Clara on Nov. 20.