ODU men’s basketball team rallies to defeat Norfolk State, 68-62, in front of frenzied crowd of 7,966
By Harry Minium
NORFOLK, Va. – The first game between the Old Dominion and Norfolk State basketball teams in seven years at Chartway Arena had a great feel and atmosphere. The near sellout crowd of 7,966 was electric and the largest at Chartway Arena in four seasons.
And at the end of the game, the home team got to celebrate a hard-fought, come-from-behind victory.
Chaunce Jenkinsa sophomore transfer from Wichita State, poured in 23 points, and sophomore guard Imo Essien calmly sank four of four free throws in the final seconds to lead ODU past Norfolk State, 68-62, on Saturday night.
Junior striker Mekhi long added 13 points and was an ironman, defensive star for the Monarchs in his nearly 37 minutes of playing time.
The game matched players who know each other well and was a physical and emotional battle, the kind you’d expect from schools located just 4 miles (6.5 km) apart. The crowd was the largest at Chartway Arena since Nov. 28, 2018, when 8,172 watched ODU rally past VCU, 62-52.
Norfolk State (5-4) led most of the game, last leading, 53-51, on a Joe Bryant layup with 6:41 left.
The Spartans then went cold, and the Monarchs (5-4) took over.
Jenkins tied the game with a layup, then drained a three-pointer with 5:42 left to give the Monarchs a 56-53 lead, their first since the opening minutes of the second half.
ODU led, 56-55, when Jenkins made a jump shot, Tyreek Scott-Grayson a three-pointer and Dericko Williams a quick layup, assisted by Williams, to build the lead to 62-55 with 2:17 left.
The Spartans slowly battled back from the free throw line and then Caheim Brown made a three-pointer with 23 seconds left that trimmed the ODU lead to two, 64-62.
But Norfolk State was then forced to foul, and although ODU had struggled at the foul line, making just 13 of 26 shots (50 percent), Essien made both shots both times to set off a thunderous ovation from ODU fans in the quantity.
ODU won the game with its depth — the Monarchs had 28 points off its bench to 13 for the Spartans — and by forcing Norfolk State center Kris Bankston into foul trouble and shutting him down in the second half.
The 6-9 senior, heralded as an NBA prospect, dominated the first half, scoring 12 points by making six of seven shots, including three dunks.
He was plagued by foul trouble and contained by ODU’s defense, and did not attempt a shot in the second half.
Norfolk State has won two consecutive MEAC titles and twice advanced to the NCAA Tournament, and ODU coach Jeff Jones said he thinks the Spartans will win another.
“It was an extremely hard-fought battle,” he said. “It was an emotional win against a quality team. As I’ve said, they’re going to win a lot of games.
“They have a really good team and they get to play their conference tournament at home (at Scope). I would think they have a good chance to win their conference for the third time, which would be a heck of an accomplishment.”
It was the fifth straight win for ODU against Norfolk State, which leads the series, 15-6.
The rivalry began in 1965 with an 86-82 ODU victory in Rockwell Hall at the old Little Creek Amphibious Base in Virginia Beach. The teams were regular rivals through 1981, but have met just six times in the last four decades.
Norfolk State was dominant early and for a while threatened to break the game open.
Norfolk State got three-pointers from veteran Joe Bryant and Brown, and then a breakaway dunk from Bankston, to take a 19-10 lead.
Bankston’s dunk drew a loud roar from the large Norfolk State contingent and forced Jones to call a timeout attempt and break the Spartans’ momentum.
The lead was 23-15 then Jason Wade, the junior from Richmond who missed the past two seasons with injuries, was inserted with 10:09 remaining. Wade had played just nine minutes in three appearances in ODU’s previous eight games.
Physically, Wade no longer has the athleticism he had nearly three years ago, when he was ODU’s best player before suffering a torn ACL and torn Achilles tendon injuries. But his basketball IQ is still high.
He had an early assist and steal, played good defense and generally calmed the Monarchs down.
“Jason came up with two or three loose balls,” Jones said. “That was our problem. We were missing free throws and they beat us to 50/50 balls.
“Jason came in and gave us a boost and kind of set the tone for us to at least try to come back because at that point Norfolk State was definitely in control of the game.”
ODU has two home games next week – William & Mary on Wednesday at 7 and Gardner-Webb on Saturday at 8.