Old Dominion dominates late to pull away from WKU

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Zoran Talley scored 23 points and Old Dominion dominated down the stretch to win 79-67 over Western Kentucky at E.A. Diddle Arena on Saturday.

The Monarchs (10-6, 3-1 Conference USA), who won their fifth straight over WKU, used a 21-5 run late to pull away after trailing 50-45 with 13 minutes to go. The Hilltoppers (9-8, 3-1 Conference USA) had a five-game winning streak overall and nine-game winning streak at home come to an end.

Que Johnson led WKU with 24 while Justin Johnson added 17 and Pancake Thomas scored 14. Western’s bench was held to just nine points.

The Hilltoppers now embark on a three-game rad trip, starting with a 7 p.m. game Thursday at Alabama-Birmingham (8-7, 1-1 CUSA).

The two sides traded baskets early on before Que Johnson provided some separation at 10-7 with a 3 from the top of the key that came after a loose ball scramble. A Thomas 3 on the left side after an Anton Waters inside-out pass put the Tops up 16-12.

With 6 1/2 minutes left in the half, Old Dominion switched to a 2-1-2 zone to try to befuddle the Hilltoppers. Que Johnson broke that with a desperation 3 as the shot clock expired, was fouled, and converted the four-point play to put Western ahead 26-19.

The Monarchs worked their way back within 27-25 on B.J. Stith’s long-range jumper out of the left corner. Justin Johnson answered with WKU’s fifth 3 of the half to stretch the margin back out to five.

Western would have to settle for a 35-31 lead at the break after shooting 5 of 11 from distance and recording six assists on 11 made field goals. It also finished the first 20 minutes 8 of 10 from the line.


The Tops took an eight-point lead early in the second half when Que Johnson dropped a pass behind his head for Justin Johnson who buried a baseline jumper. Thomas extended that margin to 46-35 on a 3 out of the left corner – the result of crisp ball movement around the perimeter.

Old Dominion hung around, however, getting within 48-45 on a Talley layup and 50-48 on Ahmad Caver’s 3 out of the right corner. Denzel Taylor finally knotted the game at 50-all on a layup after diving through the right side.

Caver’s 3 from the top of the key minutes later put ODU ahead 53-52 with 9:52 showing on the clock. Caver fed Stephen Vassor on a pretty pick-and-roll with seven minutes to go that put the Monarchs ahead 57-54.

A pair of Talley free throws made the WKU hole 59-54 with just six minutes to play. Jordan Baker’s 3 to make it 64-55 virtually put the nail in the coffin.

Stith finished with 22 for ODU while Caver scored 18. The Monarchs out-rebounded Western 42-30.

NOTES

• In 2016-17, WKU is now 6-1 at home, 7-3 when leading at halftime, 2-8 when trailing at the 5-minute mark, 4-1 when making more 3s than the opponent, 9-5 when attempting more free throws than the opponent, 2-6 when getting out-rebounding, 7-3 when finishing with more assists than the opponent, 3-7 when scoring 69 points or fewer, 2-7 when allowing 70 points or more and 2-7 with fewer bench points than the opponent.

• Western Kentucky and Old Dominion met Saturday for the 33rd time in a series dating back to 1970. The Monarchs now hold a 17-16 edge in the rivalry and ODU has won four straight.

• Western Kentucky has made at least one 3 in 923 straight games.

• WKU has made more free throws (264) than its opponents have attempted (249) this season.

• Justin Johnson needs 123 points to reach 1,000 for his career.

• Ben Lawson is fifth in WKU history with 158 career blocks. Elgrace Wilborn is fourth with 161.

• WKU senior Pancake Thomas has 29 assists and eight turnovers in his last seven games.

• Alassane Kah, who signed with WKU in November of 2012, scored two points before fouling out.

• Former Hilltoppers Jeremy Evans and A.J. Slaughter and WKU signee Taveion Hollingsworth attended Saturday’s game.

• Attendance on Saturday was announced as 4,122 giving WKU an average of 3,639 in seven home games.

— Follow WBKO sportswriter Chad Bishop on Twitter @MrChadBishop