NORFOLK, VA (WTKR)- A big halftime lead turned nail-biter turned blowout- that sums up Saturday's game between Old Dominion and Florida International.
When the dust settled, the Monarchs (12-17, 7-9) walked away with a convincing 83-63 win. With the victory, ODU completed the season sweep of its Eastern Division rivals from the Sunshine State.
Jeff Jones saw his team clicking on all cylinders during the first half as the Monarchs opened up a 42-25 advantage by halftime. Florida International, however, wasn't going away, rattling off a 21-6 run to pull to within two with 12:46 remaining in the game.
"I intentionally didn't call a timeout during that," head coach Jeff Jones said. "I wanted our guys to figure it out themselves and fight through it."
That's exactly what his players did. Three and a half minutes later, the Monarchs had opened up a nine point lead and continued to pull away and hold the Panthers at bay down the stretch. The victory marks Old Dominion's second straight as it improved to 6-2 at home in Conference USA contests this season.
"We're definitely catching momentum," said sophomore guard Charles Smith IV. "We should hit our stride right at the right time right around the end of the season. We've had a rough season but we're definitely picking it up now and ready to end the season strong."
Austin Trice continued his tear, scoring 23 points and pulling down 15 rebounds. 19 of his points came in that dominant first half. Smith added 15 points, while Kalu Ezikpe chipped in 14 points and Jaylin Hunter scored 13 points.
The Monarchs had one of their better shooting nights, shooting 57 percent from the floor. They scored 42 points in the paint and out-rebounded the Panthers, 36-29.
The win ensures that Old Dominion can finish no worse than fifth in the Conference USA Eastern Division and will begin tournament play on Wednesday, March 9. The Monarchs are back in action on Wednesday at Louisiana Tech. Tip-off is set for 7:00.