BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (ODUSports.com) – Malik Curry scored 22 of his game-high 25 points in the second half, as the Old Dominion men's basketball team (15-6, 11-4 C-USA) erased a 13-point deficit in a 71-69 victory at Western Kentucky (17-6, 10-3 C-USA) on Friday night at E.A. Diddle Arena. With the win, the Monarchs are guaranteed one of the two top seeds from the Conference USA East division, giving Old Dominion a first round bye in the upcoming C-USA Tournament held in Frisco, Texas next week. ODU has now won four games in a row, as well as 13 of its last 17 contests. Old Dominion snapped WKU's eight game win streak in league play on Friday night.
After trailing by as many as 13 in the first half, the Monarchs started the second half on an 25-10 run to take a 55-51 lead at the 7:55 mark of the second half. Malik Curry scored 16 of those 25 points for Old Dominion. ODU connected on four of its five (80.0%) three pointers during that stretch.
Western Kentucky reclaimed the lead, 64-62, before ODU scored the game's next six points to take a 68-64 advantage with 1:02 remaining in regulation. A Charles Bassey dunk would bring the Hilltoppers back within a possession, 70-67, with 18 seconds left. A.J. Oliver II missed the front end of his one and one, before Taveion Hollingsworth went coast to coast to pull WKU within one, 70-69, with nine seconds remaining in regulation.
With eight seconds to play, Xavier Green would connect on one of his two free-throw attempts, expanding ODU's lead to two 71-69. Dayvion McKnight's fallaway mid-range jumper fell short with one second left, ultimately sealing the deal on Old Dominion's win on Friday night in Bowling Green.
"We gutted this one out," said ODU head coach Jeff Jones. "Obviously in the first half we were being out played, as WKU was a lot more physical than us and we got into foul trouble. We challenged our guys at halftime to be tougher and more competitive in the second half. I think they resoundingly responded to that challenge. Once this game swung our way, we had them back on their heels. This was a big win."
Old Dominion shot 51.7% (15-29) from the floor in the second half and 55.6% (5-9) from three-point range.
Curry went 3-3 from deep in his 25-point performance, to go along with four rebounds, one assist and one steal. Jaylin Hunter scored nine points, to compliment two assists, one steal and one rebound. Also scoring nine points for ODU was Oliver II. Green went for eight points, four rebounds and one steal.
The Monarchs bench outscored Western Kentucky's 21-8 for the contest. Bassey finished with 23 points and a game high 15 rebounds for WKU.
With 13:01 to play in the opening half, the Hilltoppers led by 11, 19-8. A Green elbow jumper capped off an 11-1 ODU run, to bring the Monarchs within one, 20-19, at the 10:43 mark. Western Kentucky ended the half outscoring ODU 21-11, claiming a 41-30 lead at halftime.
Old Dominion was led by Green's seven points (3-6 FG) and four rebounds in the first half, while Hunter chipped in six points, two assists and one steal. The Monarchs bench outscored the Hilltoppers 11-6 in the opening 20 minutes. WKU's Bassey (4-4 FG) went for half highs 11 points and nine rebounds.
Updated Tournament Seeding Scenarios for Old Dominion:
*If ODU beats WKU tomorrow, the Monarchs will be crowned East division champs and will receive the No. 1 seed from the East division. ODU would receive a bye and play its first C-USA Tournament game on Thursday, March 11.
*If Old Dominion loses to Western Kentucky tomorrow, the Monarchs will receive the No. 2 seed from the East division and a first round bye and would play its first C-USA Tournament game on Thursday, March 11.
The top two teams from each division receive byes in the 2021 C-USA Tournament held in Frisco, Texas on March 9-14. To view the bracket template for the 2021 Conference USA Tournament, please CLICK HERE. The league will announce the official tournament bracket on the night of Saturday, March 6.
To view the C-USA standings, please CLICK HERE.
"It's going to be two good basketball teams getting after it tomorrow for basically all of the marbles in our division," concluded Jones. "It is going to be two teams letting it all out tomorrow."
Old Dominion will be right back in action tomorrow, March 6, when the Monarchs against take on Western Kentucky in Bowling Green at 5 p.m. EST on CBSSN on Facebook.