BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The No. 3 seeded Old Dominion men’s basketball team (19-12) rallied back from a 17-point first half deficit, before Marshall’s Jon Elmore connected on 1-2 free-throws with two seconds remaining in regulation, giving the No. 6 seeded Thundering Herd (19-14) a 64-63 victory over the Monarchs in the Quarterfinals of the 2017 Conference USA Tournament on Thursday night at Legacy Arena.
“It’s always difficult when your season ends,” said ODU head coach Jeff Jones. “You always like to have a chance to play one more. I cannot fault our effort at all. Just like these guys have most of the year, I thought they really battled. They showed a lot of character when we got down as much as we did early on to fight back. Ultimately, we found out that the self-inflicted wounds, often times, are too difficult to overcome.”
Old Dominion missed its first 15 shots from the floor before scoring its first points 8:05 into the contest, as the Thundering herd jumped out to an early 15-0 lead.
“We kept telling our guys don’t panic,” said Jones. “Possession by possession, to just get back in it. Credit to our kids that they did that.”
After trailing by 17 twice, ODU ended the half on a 25-6 run to claim a two-point halftime lead (29-27), as four Monarchs scored five or more points led by B.J. Stith’s seven points, while Brandan Stith, Ahmad Caver and Jordan Baker each chipped in five.
A Trey Porter dunk followed by a Porter lay-in gave the Monarchs a 43-42 advantage at the 11:06 mark of the second half. Six straight points from Zoran Talley later tied the contest at 54-54 with 4:32 to play. Ahmad Caver then drilled a deep three to cap off a 9-2 run and give ODU a 57-54 lead with 3:27 remaining in regulation.
The Thundering Herd answered with a 7-2 run to take a 61-59 lead with 1:40 to play, before a Brandan Stith layup tied the contest back up for the fifth time, 61-61, at the 36-second mark. Stevie Browning connected on a mid-range jumper to reclaim a two-point advantage, before Brandan Stith again answered with a dunk to tie the game, 63-63, with six seconds to play.
A foul was called on Ahmad Caver with just two seconds remaining in regulation, sending First Team All-Conference USA honoree Jon Elmore to the charity stripe, who connected on one of two from the free-throw line, giving Marshall a 64-63 lead. Zoran Talley’s last second three-point attempt did not get off in time.
The Monarchs were led by B.J. Stith (four rebounds and three assists) and Trey Porter (five rebounds in 15 minutes), who each scored 12 points, respectively. Brandan Stith recorded a double-double, going for 11 points and 12 rebounds. Ahmad Caver finished with eight points, six assists, two rebounds and two steals. Denzell Taylor hauled down eight rebounds to go along with three points.
The game experienced a total of 10 lead changes and six ties.
“I feel like the team as a whole came out with great energy,” said ODU Sophomore B.J. Stith. “I don’t know if we were too excited to play, but as the game went along, we settled down and got into a rhythm. We got over it, but the start was too much in the end.”
Marshall was led by Stevie Browning’s 24 points. With the victory, the Thundering Herd advances to the Semifinals against No. 2 seeded LA Tech on Friday, March 10 at 3:00 p.m. EST on CBS Sports Network.