Old Dominion entered Thursday with no shortage of doubt about its players’ stamina.
It turns out efficient shooting and tight defense can be quite a remedy for many things.
Austin Trice scored 19 points and the Monarchs made quick work of Texas San Antonio in an 83-51 Conference USA win at Chartway Arena.
ODU (7-8, 2-0 C-USA), playing for the first time since Dec. 30, shot a blistering 61.8% from the field and forced 11 turnovers in the wire-to-wire victory.
The Monarchs used a sudden 19-2 run that ended midway through the second half to take full command. ODU took a 78-44 lead — its largest of the game — on a D’Angelo Stines layup with 1:43 to go.
The win, the Monarchs’ second straight, came after a COVID-19 outbreak that put the program on pause.
“Our guys were very excited to play,” said coach Jeff Jones, who was down to six players for practice at the height of the COVID shortage. “I thought that was evident early on.”
Erik Czumbel scored a career-high 16 points for the shorthanded Roadrunners (7-10, 0-4), who were dealing with COVID issues affecting some of their best players. Three of their top four scorers were unavailable for the game.
ODU went 7 for 16 from 3-point range, showing improvement in a key area that’s been problematic at times this season.
Jaylin Hunter and C.J. Keyser both added 16 points for the Monarchs, who won the rebounding battle 33-27 and held UTSA to 38.6% shooting.
ODU had a pair of league games postponed due to COVID-related issues. Eight members of the program tested positive and have gone through protocols in recent days, with some of the players returning to practice intermittently.
This week, Jones expressed concern over their ability to manage the workload of a game after missing practice time and conditioning.
But they were fully engaged, especially in the dominant second half.
“Games like this always matter, and we know that,” said Hunter, a 6-foot sophomore guard who made 6 of 9 shots and had seven assists. “Plus, we hadn’t played in 14 days, so we had no reason not to be excited.”
The Monarchs’ six-man practices were filled with conditioning, shooting competitions and 5-on-0 scenarios.
Jones found the time useful. Some of his players might disagree.
“There were a couple of times when we were getting some running in that I heard — I won’t mention names, but I heard guys say, ‘God, I wish I had COVID,’ " Jones said, laughing.
“I do think that for those six guys, we did accomplish something.”
Thursday’s win marked the third straight game in which ODU eclipsed the 80-point mark.
Behind accurate shooting and stingy defense, the Monarchs sprinted to a 16-2 lead in the game’s first seven minutes. They again led by 14, at 22-8 midway through the half, before taking a 33-21 advantage into halftime, shooting 60% from the floor in the process.
And then came the second half, which ODU won 50-30.
The Monarchs, Hunter said, were never going to take their struggling opponent for granted.
“We have nothing to be complacent about,” he said. “Our record, obviously, isn’t where we want it to be, and any conference game is valuable.”
David Hall, firstname.lastname@example.org