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Blazers cool of ODU in Birmingham

UAB beat the Monarchs 76-69 in a showdown of second place teams in their division.
Credit: ODU Athletics

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Old Dominion men's basketball team (11-6, 7-4 C-USA) had its two-game win streak snapped in a 76-69 loss at UAB (17-4, 10-3 C-USA) at Bartow Arena on Friday night. Kalu Ezikpe led the way for the Monarchs, finishing with 17 points on 8-10 shooting, to compliment eight rebounds.
 
An Ezikpe converted and one gave ODU a 40-36 lead at the 15:46 mark of the second half, before the Blazers utilized a 23-8 run to claim the largest lead of the contest to that point, 59-48 with 8:28 remaining in regulation.
 
On five separate occasions, Old Dominion cut its deficit down to nine, the last coming off an Ezikpe layin with 2:45 to play, which helped spur a 17-10 run to bring ODU within four (69-65), capped off by an A.J. Oliver II three-pointer with 1:10 left. Moments later, Oliver II appeared to have another trey to bring the Monarchs within three with 35 seconds remaining in regulation; however, the shot was called off and Oliver II was charged with a foul for kicking his leg out.
 
UAB sealed the deal at the charity stripe, capitalizing on five of its last six free-throws, ultimately lifting the Blazers to a seven-point victory in Birmingham on Friday night.
 
Old Dominion, who averages 13 turnovers per outing, committed 20 against UAB, which led to 24 Blazer points.
 
"Turnovers certainly killed us tonight, as well as our futility rebounding the basketball," said ODU head coach Jeff Jones. "We just have to compete better. We have to take this game personally and we have to be tougher."
 
Joining Ezikpe in double figures for the Monarchs were Xavier Green (13 points), Oliver II (12 points) and Malik Curry (10 points).
 
Tavin Lovan poured in a game-high 25 points for UAB, while Tyreek Grayson-Scott followed with 24 points.
 
"You can't let Lovan do what he did, he just manhandled up and was a man among boys," Jones said.
 
For the game, the Blazers bench outscored ODU's 27-10, while UAB led for 29:52 and ODU held a lead for 6:55 of the total 40 minutes.
 
"We will have plenty of time to break down the film tomorrow morning, but tonight we are trying to get out of here as quickly as possible, feed the guys, let them get iced down, as well as treated and get to bed, that is the most important thing right now for us," Jones concluded.
 
UAB jumped out to an early 15-7 lead at the 11:57 mark of the opening half, before Joe Reece and Ezikpe combined for 11 of ODU's next 13 points to bring the Monarchs within one, 21-20, with 6:06 to play in the first half.
 
After trailing by as many as eight in the first 20 minutes, Old Dominion ended the half on a 25-15 run, claiming a 32-30 lead at the break. ODU shot 54% (14-26) from the floor and outrebounded the Blazers 18-12 in the first frame. UAB led for 15:29 of the possible 20 minutes, while the Monarchs led for 3:38. ODU's defense held UAB to just 14% (1-7) shooting from deep. Old Dominion committed nine first half turnovers, which the Blazers turned into nine points.
 
In the first half, Reece led the way for ODU with seven points on 3-4 shooting to go along with three rebounds. Curry (three rebounds) and Ezikpe (four rebounds) each went for six first half points. Oliver II chipped in five points and Hunter had four.
 
In the two prior road league games that the Monarchs lost on Friday (FIU and Rice), ODU came back to win both Saturday games. Old Dominion is 4-1 on Saturdays in C-USA play so far this season. ODU has won five of the last eight meetings against UAB. The Monarchs have won nine of its last 13 contests.
 
Old Dominion will be right back in action against the Blazers tomorrow, Feb. 20 at 4 p.m. EST.