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Coach Jeff Jones makes pregame appearance, then inspired Monarchs blow out Coastal Carolina

NORFOLK — Ty Williams hasn’t been at Old Dominion for long, but he likely ensured Saturday that he’ll be remembered long after he’s gone.

The Old Dominion senior guard saved his best home game for last.

Williams scored a career-high 33 points, and the Monarchs got a long-awaited and emphatic 75-59 Sun Belt Conference win over Coastal Carolina at noisy Chartway Arena.

The victory, which came in the season’s final home game, snapped a six-game losing streak for ODU (7-22, 3-13 Sun Belt), which had last won a home game on Jan. 18.

It gives the last-place Monarchs hope as they hit the road for the last two games of the regular season before the conference tournament opens on March 5.

“I think it can be, and hopefully it is, a big boost for us,” acting head coach Kieran Donohue said. “I keep coming back to it: Our guys haven’t quit, but that’s hard. That’s hard to keep coming in every day. It’s hard to keep the faith when you don’t get the results. So to get the result that we got tonight, that hopefully gives us a little more energy when we come in on Monday.”

On a night when sidelined head coach Jeff Jones helped conduct pregame Senior Night ceremonies for Williams and fellow guard Jason Wade, ODU played inspired basketball.

A hint at a second-half collapse was tamped down by a thrilling 21-3 run, punctuated by a Williams tomahawk dunk and 3-pointer that gave the Monarchs a 72-52 lead in the final 90 seconds.

The announced crowd of 6,420, most of them starved to see an ODU win, could feast at last.

“I felt like we had this in us the whole year,” said Williams, a 6-foot-5 senior transfer from Oregon. “We came up short a lot. But today, we just kept our foot on the gas. We didn’t give up at all.”

Williams’ point total was the highest by an ODU player since B.J. Stith scored 36 against Texas San Antonio on Feb. 15, 2018.

Ginika Ojiako scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Chanticleers (8-19, 5-11), who shot 37.1% to ODU’s 37.7%. The Monarchs, forced by Coastal’s defense to the perimeter, made 5 of 22 from 3-point range.

Wade, a popular sixth-year senior, scored two points but figured prominently in his team’s defensive effort. The Monarchs turned 17 turnovers into 23 points.

“The defense was there most of the night,” Donohue said. “Perfect doesn’t exist, but we were pretty darn good.”

Donohue has been leading ODU since Jones suffered a heart attack on Dec. 20 while the team was in Hawaii for a tournament. Jones then learned that he needed to resume treatment for prostate cancer, and the combination shut down his season.

Before the pregame ceremony, Jones stood outside the Monarchs’ locker room and exchanged emotional hugs with several members of the athletic department. Under doctor’s orders not to watch games, he left after presenting Williams and Wade with framed jerseys.

Williams, playing in front of his 11-month-old son Chase for just the second time, had the night of his life. He set the tone immediately, scoring his team’s first 13 points.

His late dunk, he said, was a bit of an aural blur.

“Once I did it, I just heard the crowd was going crazy,” Williams said. “I was screaming. I’m thinking I’m screaming loud. I couldn’t even hear myself scream. It was rowdy.”

ODU took a 31-28 lead into halftime after Devin Ceaser’s 3-pointer from the left wing with two seconds left. The Monarchs made just 2 of their first 13 field-goal attempts but managed a sizable early lead because Coastal made just 2 of its first 10 shots.

After falling behind 20-6 midway through the first half, the Chanticleers finally reached double figures with just over seven minutes to go.

Jones, a former star point guard and coach at the University of Virginia, had been away from the team since falling ill. The players didn’t know he was coming to the game until right before the pregame ceremony.

“It was good to see him,” said Donohue, whose relationship with Jones dates back to Donohue’s days as a student manager at UVA in the early 1990s. “I thought he looked good. I think it was very hard for him out there. I give him a lot of credit. Jeff’s a tough guy, and I think it was probably not the easiest thing to walk into this arena tonight. I’m just happy for him that he was able to participate in that.”

David Hall, david.hall@pilotonline.com.