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Old Dominion overcomes halftime deficit

The SportsXchange

NORFOLK, Va. -- His team may have trailed by seven points at halftime, but Old Dominion coach Jeff Jones had seen enough to express supreme confidence about what was to follow.

"My message at halftime was look, fellas, relax. We got this," Jones said.

The Monarchs promptly put teeth in those words by scoring the first nine points of the second half and surging past Murray State 70-60 on Friday night at the Constant Center.

"I just felt good about how we'd played," Jones said of his halftime stance. "We made some mistakes, but they were easily correctable. The biggest thing was I didn't want these guys to be down. So it was like, let's correct those things we did wrong and just go out and play the way we're capable of playing."

A 3-pointer from guard Dimitri Batten 23 seconds into the second half kick-started the Monarchs (2-1), who trailed 36-29 at the break. Guard Keenan Palmore's layup and forward Denzell Taylor's dunk followed before Batten put Old Dominion in front with a short runner.

A jumper by Murray State guard Cameron Payne tied it at 38, but guard Aaron Bacote's layup with 14:28 left gave Old Dominion a lead it would never relinquish.

"They came out in the first five minutes (of the second half) ready to play and scored whenever they wanted, got the lead and were really in control the rest of the way," Murray State coach Steve Prohm said.

Bacote had 21 points and eight assists, guard Keenan Palmore scored 13 points and forward Richard Ross chipped in 12 points and nine rebounds to lead the Monarchs, who overcame a size disadvantage inside to outrebound the Racers 43-36 and allow only seven offensive boards.

"It's definitely a mind-set," said the 6-foot-6 Ross, who combined with the 6-7 Taylor to collect 21 rebounds. "We know there's going to be a lot of times when we're going to be outmatched man-to-man. What it comes down to is heart, who wants to go get the ball. That's just how it's going to be."

Prohm, meanwhile, was dismayed to see his group getting outworked by the undersized Monarchs.

"We didn't represent Murray State well tonight, and that's what hurts the most because I've got a lot of pride in this program," he said. "We've got to do a better job, and that starts with me."

Payne scored 17 to lead four Racers in double figures.

Murray State (1-2) shot just 33 percent from the field in the second half and struggled from the free throw line all night. A 72 percent free throw shooting team coming in, Murray State made just one of its first 11 attempts from the line and finished 7 of 18.

Payne's play was pivotal in the Racers gaining the initial advantage as he shook off early foul trouble. The Murray State freshman, who scored 21 points in his college debut against Valparaiso a week ago, picked up two fouls in a 13-second span and had to sit out before the game was two minutes old.

By the time Payne returned at the 10:21 mark, Murray State trailed 17-10. The Racers promptly scored 18 of the game's next 22 points.

A Bacote 3-pointer and a Ross dunk that led to a three-point play got the Monarchs to within one. But a Payne 3-pointer, forward Jeffrey Moss' fast-break layup and guard Dexter Fields' 3-pointer allowed the Racers to regain control heading into halftime.

Payne finished the half with 10 points and four assists.

NOTES: The Racers topped the Monarchs 79-72 when the teams met last season in Kentucky, but only four Murray State players who played in that game are still on the team. ... Old Dominion came into the game making just 49 percent of its free throws after its first two games, including a 13-for-30 effort in Wednesday night's 77-57 victory over Howard. ... Murray State shot 53.1 from the field for the first half (16 of 30) but attempted just two free throws and missed both.

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