Save for one close win against Virginia on Dec. 22, Old Dominion has not been able to get over the hump in tight games.
That trend continued Wednesday in a 65-60 road loss against UNC Wilmington.
The Monarchs (2-15, 0-5 Colonial Athletic Association) are 1-6 in games decided by five points or fewer.
ODU had a 31-28 lead coming out of halftime. But once again, a few sloppy possessions took their toll.
ODU had a 22-14 rebounding edge in the first half, including an 8-3 advantage on the offensive glass. UNCW (7-10, 2-3) flipped the script in the second 20 minutes by grabbing 25 rebounds to the Monarchs' 14. The game was decided on 50-50 balls ODU couldn't come away with, senior forward DeShawn Painter said.
"We competed hard, we played well together," Painter said. "I just think all of us, as a whole, got outhustled a little bit."
It's been a theme, coach Blaine Taylor said. ODU has played well in stretches, but can't seem to string that effort together for 40 minutes.
"We're pretty doggone competitive, but we're having a hard time outcompeting the opponent," Taylor said. "We felt like we had a chance, and we gave ourselves a chance."
With less than five minutes left and ODU trailing by one, the Monarchs allowed a lay-up off an offensive board. Then, after a botched offensive try, the Monarchs again gave up an offensive rebound, and again the Seahawks converted to take a 54-49 lead with 3:52 remaining.
After a pair of free throws by ODU's Keenan Palmore, UNCW's Chris Dixon hit two consecutive layups and made it a seven-point game.
A push by ODU cut the lead to three, but then Dixon hit the dagger: a long 3-pointer with two seconds left on the shot clock with a hand in his face.
"Everything we ran was not working, and Dixon, just playing with confidence, stepped up and hit a shot for us," UNCW coach Buzz Peterson said. "That's somebody taking ownership and wanting to win."
ODU hasn't found that player this season. With the score tied eight times, and the lead flipped 10 times, the Monarchs could not find a man to forge a lead or, late in the game, erase the deficit.
"I thought we got out-toughed down the stretch," Taylor said. "We were a step ahead of them early, and we were a step behind them late."
Painter had 18 points and eight rebounds for ODU. Richard Ross chipped in 11 points and five boards off the bench, but battled foul trouble.
Dixon had 14 points for the Seahawks and Keith Rendleman, who has averaged a double-double for UNCW this season, put up 14 points and 13 boards.
ODU returns home for a game against Georgia State on Saturday. It's one Painter and the rest of the Monarchs hope will ease the sting of five straight losses.
"We're close," he said. "But we're tired of being close."
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