Texas-San Antonio coach Brooks Thompson believed his players were fouling the right people. And after his team trimmed ODU’s 16-point second-half lead to seven, and Monarchs freshman Denzell Taylor missed a pair of free throws with 3:18 to play, the coach appeared to be right.
Taylor’s second miss bounced toward teammate Aaron Bacote, however, and in a play that won’t show up in the box score but typified ODU’s just-enough effort Thursday night, the sophomore guard got his fingertips on it and tapped it back to Keenan Palmore.
It burned a little more clock and ultimately helped ODU escape with a 69-61 win.
“I just saw the ball bounce,” Bacote said. “I didn’t see Keenan back there.”
Bacote led ODU with 22 points. But his uneven stat line – 5-for-15 shooting, 1 for 8 from 3-point range, 11 for 13 from the foul line, four assists, six turnovers – typified the night for the Monarchs.
“It’s a win, and we’ll take it,” coach Jeff Jones said. “Obviously, at times, it wasn’t the prettiest, but we did just enough at the start of the game and the beginning of the second half to hold on.”
ODU has established that it’s neither deep nor talented enough to overcome extended mental lapses most nights. The Monarchs endured a pair of long ones – late in the first half and after spooling out a 16-point lead in the second.
They got a grip on the game late, shaking off earlier misses to hit 7 of 8 free throws over the final 1:59.
“Our big thing right now, at both ends of the floor, particularly defensively, is playing with a sense of urgency; playing the way we’re capable of playing, all the time,” Jones said.
It’s an elusive goal, and one ODU (11-12, 5-3 Conference USA) wasn’t able to hit Thursday.
The Monarchs opened a nine-point first-half lead by annoying UTSA with their defensive quickness and by playing with decisiveness on offense.
They became hesitant late in the half, and “kind of staggered” into halftime, Jones said, down a point.
A 15-2 burst gave the Monarchs an early 12-point second-half lead. A boost from freshman guard Jordan Baker, who came in when starter Dimitri Batten left the game with a shoulder injury, helped get the lead to 16.
ODU lapsed again, playing “not to lose,” Jones said.
“When we’re coming down the home stretch, the thought process for us has to change,” Jones said.
UTSA (7-14, 3-5) chipped away, beginning its comeback with Jordan Sims’ 3-pointer. A 3 from Hyjii Thomas cut the margin to 10. A layup by Devon Agusi got the Roadrunners within seven.
“We couldn’t get over the hump,” Thompson said. “We kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Note: Jones said Batten appeared to have a separated shoulder, but did not have a precise diagnosis immediately after the game.
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