NORFOLK, Va. — On a night when the offense came in fits and starts, Old Dominion relied on a defensive sequence to separate from pesky Tulane.
Spurred by a lineup featuring three reserves, the Monarchs clamped down on the Green Wave during a pivotal 9-2 second-half run and held on for a 70-64 victory on Saturday night at the Constant Center.
Old Dominion guard Aaron Bacote led a balanced attack with 16 points. Guard Dimitri Batten added 15 points, guard Keenan Palmore 14 and forward Richard Ross 10 as the Monarchs (10-10, 4-1 Conference USA) won for the fifth time in six games.
But it was during a stretch when guard Jordan Baker, foward Joe Ebondo and guard Ambrose Mosely, all reserves, were on the floor that the Monarchs were able to get the consistent stops that enabled them to seize control.
In addition to the stout defensive work, Baker and Mosley combined to score five of the nine points during the run that boosted Old Dominion’s lead to 15 with just under six minutes remaining.
“All game long we were almost there and it felt like we were starting to pull away, but we just didn’t finish,” Old Dominion coach Jeff Jones said. “I wasn’t pulling my hair out, but I knew we had to step up, and it had to be at the defensive end. That was the real key time in the game when we really D’d up.”
Aided by shaky Old Dominion free throw shooting, the Green Wave made things interesting down the stretch as 3-pointers by guard Jonathan Stark and guard Jay Hook in the final minute cut the deficit to four. But Palmore made two from the line with 5.7 seconds left to seal it.
For the game, Old Dominion was just 14 of 25 from the line.
“Free throw shooting almost cost us, but Tulane also hit some big shots there,” Jones said.
Tulane coach Ed Conroy lamented the fact that the energy his team displayed in making its comeback wasn’t in place all game.
“It’s maturity,” Conroy said. “Our guys have a tendency to kind of stick their toe in, test the water a little bit. Finally, when their backs are against the wall, they look like our basketball team again. You just have to be better competitors than that.”
Stark scored a game-high 21 points, guard Louis Dabney added 17 and Hook chipped in 14 for Tulane, which also hurt itself with 17 turnovers.
“Those gave them some easy baskets early, gave them some confidence,” Conroy said. “Those were the real killers.”
Batten scored Old Dominion’s first five points as the Monarchs got the jump on the ice-cold Green Wave. Tulane missed its first five shots from the field and made only two of their first 19 in the opening 15 minutes.
The Monarchs’ offense was only marginally better, though, and when Hook made a layup with 4:36 left, the Green Wave trailed by just five at 22-17.
It stayed that way until the final minute when a layup by Bacote and a tip-in from Ross got the Monarchs some separation. Stark made a layup just before the halftime buzzer to cut the deficit to seven at 32-25.
Batten led the Monarchs with 10 points and forward Denzell Taylor added six. Hook had eight points to lead Tulane, which shot just 29 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes.
NOTES: The Monarchs completed a highlight-worthy play early in the contest when G Keenan Palmore poked the ball free from G Jonathan Stark. F Joe Ebondo dived to recover the loose ball and from his belly flipped it ahead to a streaking Palmore, who tossed up a lob that F Richard Ross flushed home with two hands. … Tulane and Old Dominion were meeting for the first time since 1994, when the Monarchs prevailed 85-80 in overtime. … The Green Wave missed its first eight 3-point shots before Stark drained back-to-back bombs inside the final two minutes.
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