Herd sees second half lead evaporate in loss to ODU

By David Walsh

NORFOLK, VA  – Old Dominion came back from 21 points down early in the second half to edge Marshall, 82-81, Friday night in Conference USA play at ODU’s Chartway Arena.

The Thundering Herd led 42-28 at the half and stretched the margin to 21 at 56-35 on a Taevion Kinsey three-pointer with 19:37 left.

That’s when the Monarchs (9-4, 5-2 C-USA) said enough and started to battle back thanks mainly to their work on the boards. ODU led in rebounds 50-28 and 50-20 in points in the paint.

Joe Reece scored with 8:20 to play to give Old Dominion a 67-66 lead, its first lead since moments into the first half. Down the stretch, the Herd also missed key free throws – Kinsey, Obinna Anochili-Killen and Jansson Williams each going 0-for-2 at crucial moments.

In the final 20 seconds, each team got possession on a held ball. Mekhi Long missed the front end of a one-and-one for the Monarchs with eight seconds to go and the Herd’s Mikel Beyers got the rebound. David Early missed Marshall’s chance for the win with a shot at the buzzer.

“It’s tough. Tale of two halves,” Herd assistant coach Scott Rigot said on the Herd radio network’s postgame interview. “The flood gates opened in the second half. Can’t have that. Have to be better on the glass.”

Austin Trice came off the bench to score a game-high 20 points for Old Dominion, which came in averaging 68 points a game. Trice got 13 rebounds for a double-double. Kalu Ezikpe also had a double-double with 16 points and 11 boards. Reece also scored 16 points. The Monarchs made 23-of-35 shots in the final 20 minutes. Malik Curry, the team’s top scorer, did not play.

Kinsey led the Herd (9-5, 3-4 C-USA) with 22 points, Anochili-Killen hit for a career-high 16 and Beyers came off the bench to net 13.

The team’s finish the two-game series today at 7 p.m. at Chartway Arena. Due to the Coronavirus and COVID-19 protocols, ODU’s home attendance is limited to 250 and there is social distancing.

This was the Herd’s first game in two weeks. Marshall had last weekend’s home twinbill against FAU postponed due to COVID-19 and contract tracing with the Owls. ODU last played Jan. 16, a win against Rice.

ODU now leads the overall series 12-11. The Monarchs have won five of their last six games and are 6-0 at home this season.

Rigot said he’s puzzled by the Herd’s lackluster play in the second half. It had a similar effort in a loss at Western Kentucky earlier.

“The second half we lost intensity for whatever reason,” Rigot said. “We knew what they liked to do. Things you take for granted we didn’t do. We missed crucial free throws. Miss two, that’s a thrown-away possession. In a game this close, can’t do that.

“We put them in a hole and it was throw it up, go get it for them. We earned it. We’ve got to fix it. We need to do for both halves what we did in the first half.”

After today’s game, the Herd is scheduled to face Middle Tennessee State next weekend at Cam Henderson Center.

The coaches wore sneakers as they join in the Coaches vs. Cancer fight.

Williams finished with five blocked shots to give him 181 for his career, making him now No. 2 on the career list. He passed Ajdin Penava and is one behind career leader and current NBA standout Hassan Whiteside (182). The Herd leads C-USA in blocked shots per game.

This weekend was to be the “Sonny Allen Tribute” for the Monarches, but the COVID-19 issues put the celebration on hold until next season. There were video tribute for Allen in each half.

Allen, 84, died Sept. 20 in Reno, Nev. He had Parkinson’s Disease. Allen, a native of Moundsville, W.Va., came to Marshall as a walk-on, earned a scholarship and roomed with future NBA star Hal Greer.

Allen led Old Dominion to the NCAA Division II national title in 1975 with a win over New Orleans. The Monarchs lost to Evansville in the Division II finals in 1971. He later coached at SMU and Reno. The school is raising money for a Sonny Allen Scholarship in men’s basketball. The goal is $150,000. So far donations are more than $146,000. Allen lived in Lexington, N.C. The tribute is now planned for next season, most likely when Marshall again visits.