Old Dominion overwhelms youthful Howard

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NORFOLK, Va. -- For Old Dominion forward Richard Ross, it was a matter of pride.
Not only were his Monarchs struggling throughout the first half with Howard, but they admittedly also were getting outworked by the youthful Bison, a team that counted nine freshmen among its 11-player rotation.
Once Old Dominion coach Jeff Jones delivered this message, though, the Monarchs responded. Guard Jordan Baker scored eight straight points during a 10-3 spurt to open the second half and the Monarchs cruised past the Bison 77-57 Wednesday night at the Constant Center.
"Coach challenged us," said Ross, who finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks. "He was like, 'There's a lot of freshmen out there, and they're kicking our butts.' That's picking at a couple of people's pride. So we knew we had to go out there, buckle down and get it done."
The victory was the first at Old Dominion for Jones, who took over the Monarchs after racking up 358 wins in 21 seasons at Virginia and American.
"I'm happy to get our first win," Jones said. "But there's a lot more we have in our sights, and we've got to get better to accomplish that."
The Monarchs (1-1) led 35-29 at halftime, then began their decisive run on forward Denzell Taylor's layup. Baker then sandwiched back-to-back 3-pointers around a 3 by Howard guard James Daniel before a fast-break layup from Baker gave Old Dominion a 45-32 lead at the first media timeout.
Howard (2-1) did not get closer than nine points the rest of the way.
"In the first half, both teams were kind of searching for their identity," Howard coach Kevin Nickelberry said. "In the second half, Old Dominion did a good job of finding theirs. At the end of the day, we were just too young."
Howard's Daniel, one of three freshmen in the starting lineup, led all scorers with 26 points. Swingman James Miller and swingman Prince Okoroh each added 10, but the Bison connected on just 29.2 percent of their field goal attempts.
Howard was also unable to capitalize on its 21 offensive rebounds, as its slender big men were continually unable to finish putbacks.
"That weight-room difference -- freshmen against sophomores and juniors -- that's where you see it," Nickelberry said.
Guard Aaron Bacote scored 20 points to lead five Old Dominion players in double figures. Baker added 13 points while guard Dimitri Batten added 12 and Taylor and Ross each chipped in 10 for the Monarchs, who prevailed despite 13-of-30 shooting from the free throw line.
"It's a mental thing, but I don't want the guys dwelling on it because it just becomes a bigger and bigger burden," Jones said.
NOTES: Howard made just 12 of 24 free throws. ... Old Dominion plays Murray State on Friday, and Howard travels to Harvard. ... Howard plays at home just twice in the next 14 games.

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