Old Dominion's Baker burns Georgia Southern

Paul White, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NORFOLK, Va. -- The Georgia Southern Eagles gambled that Old Dominion Monarchs freshman reserve guard Jordan Baker wouldn't beat them with his jump shot.
The Eagles lost that bet.
Baker shook off a recent slump and led the way as the Monarchs shot lights-out in the opening 20 minutes and raced past the Eagles 86-69 Saturday at the Constant Center.
With his team trailing 9-4 and the Monarchs struggling to solve the Eagles' 2-3 zone, Baker connected on three of the Monarchs' five consecutive 3-pointers during a 23-3 run that broke things open.
"Jordan gave us a huge lift," Old Dominion coach Jeff Jones said. "He singlehandedly shot them out of their zone."
Baker, who came in averaging 6.0 points per game, scored 16 of his career-high 17 points in the first half and made all four of his 3-point shots before the break.
"My shot was falling and my teammates kept coming back to me," Baker said. "I just had to reward them with the assist by making the shot."
Baker had made just 2 of his 11 field goal attempts in his previous two games.
"We knew he could shoot, and we knew he was struggling coming in," Georgia Southern coach Mark Byington said. "We hoped it would continue one more game."
Instead, Baker's early success seemed to energize his entire team. The Monarchs shot 61.5 percent from the field in the first half and made 8 of 12 3-pointers. The Monarchs finished the game shooting 51.9 percent (27 of 52).
"I think for them one guy saw it go in the basket and it was contagious," Byington said. "They almost put panic into us by making shots early."
Old Dominion led 47-33 at halftime and maintained a double-digit advantage throughout the final 20 minutes to win their fourth straight -- all at home -- since a season-opening overtime loss to Missouri State.
The Eagles fell to 2-3 and 0-3 against Division I teams.
As expected, the high-scoring guard tandem of Tre Bussey and Jelani Hewitt supplied most of Georgia Southern's offense. The two combined for 51 of the Eagles' 69 points, with Bussey scoring 28 and Hewitt adding 23.
"They were having to make difficult plays, and give them credit, they made them," Jones said of Bussey and Hewitt. "So we weren't letting them get theirs, we wanted to make them work, but we also didn't want to turn their other guys into scorers."
No other Eagle had more than five points, and the team recorded just two assists.
"We are what we are right now," Byington said. "We're a guard-oriented team and those guys can make a lot of shots. But we do have to find more balance."
The Eagles shot just 35.1 percent from the field.
Guard Aaron Bacote scored 28 points and guard Dimitri Batten added 13 for Old Dominion, which will play its first game away from home on Tuesday against West Virginia in the Cancun Challenge in Mexico.
NOTES: Georgia Southern came in averaging 90.5 points per game and had twice cracked the 100-point barrier. ... G Trey Bussey and G Jelani Hewitt each averaged a Southern Conference-leading 22.5 points through four games. ... The game served as a homecoming for Georgia Southern assistant Randy Peele, a Norfolk native. Also, Eagles coach Mark Byington hails from Salem, Va.

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