NORFOLK — An overtime meltdown doomed Jeff Jones' Old Dominion coaching debut Friday night.
The Monarchs scrapped against Missouri State throughout regulation, overcoming foul trouble and their considerable shortcomings. They even showed the occasional offensive pulse.
All that vanished in overtime as the Bears rolled to a 79-67 victory at the Constant Center.
"We just kind of lost control," Jones said.
"For the first 40 (minutes), I thought we played (well)," guard Aaron Bacote said. "We just unraveled toward the end."
Indeed, Missouri State scored on its first seven possessions of the extra period, and ODU didn't make a field goal until Bacote's meaningless 3-pointer just before the horn.
The Monarchs shot 33.8 percent overall, 1-of-7 in overtime. Dimitri Batten struggled most, missing 18-of-21 attempts, 9-of-10 from beyond the arc. Bacote scored a game and career-best 28 points but made only 9-of-24 shots.
"We're going to struggle to score points," Jones said, citing his undersized team's need to score in transition rather than face a set defense.
And much like last season, set defenses, especially Missouri State's zone, often baffled ODU. The Monarchs were among the nation's worst 3-point shooting teams last season, making 27.7 percent, and this season may not be much better given their lack of a post threat and pure shooter.
ODU made 7-of-23 from beyond the arc Friday, 30.4 percent.
The one efficient Monarch was sixth man Richard Ross, who contributed 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds before fouling out. Four of his teammates committed four fouls, forcing Jones to juggle lineups for most of the second half and OT.
"When Richard is focused he can be a very, very positive factor for our basketball team," Jones said. "It's just a matter of Richard setting his mind to it each day."
Both teams missed contested shots in the final minute of regulation.
Batten ducked under Nathan Scheer for a 10-footer that rolled out with 26 seconds remaining. Following a timeout, Missouri State isolated Marcus Marshall at the top of the key against Bacote, but Marshall's 3-pointer missed.
"I want him to be aggressive in that situation," Jones said of Batten, finding no fault with the shot selection.
Junior college transfer Joe Ebondo and redshirt freshman Ambrose Mosley's first points as Monarchs couldn't have been better-timed. Ebondo's stickback gave ODU its first second-half lead at 45-43, and on the Monarchs' next possession, Mosley banked in a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Those buckets helped ODU take a 58-50 lead with seven minutes remaining, but as Jones said, the Monarchs aren't yet good enough to sustain those stretches of quality play.
ODU is Jones' third big-whistle gig, and his challenges at each couldn't have been more different.
In 1990, he inherited a Virginia program that as a point guard and assistant coach he had helped reach national heights. The Cavaliers reached the final of the ACC tournament and the second round of the NCAA tournament the season before he took over, and in his head-coaching debut they defeated Siena in the Great Alaska Shootout en route to the NCAAs.
Conversely, American had endured nine consecutive losing seasons and had never made the NCAA Division I tournament before Jones' 2000 arrival. The Eagles defeated Radford in his first game, soon became Patriot League contenders and broke through to the NCAAs in 2008 and '09.
ODU is recovering from its worst Division I season, and not solely because of its 5-25 record. The university fired popular coach Blaine Taylor, in large measure over personal issues.
But 5-25 and messy exit notwithstanding, Taylor did wonders for the Monarchs, guiding them to four NCAA tournaments from 2005-12, an eight-year stretch in which they averaged 24.4 victories.
He left behind a lean roster, especially in the frontcourt, which likely translates to a difficult first season in Conference USA. But Jones and ODU are accustomed to winning, and bank on the school providing him the resources needed to revive the program.
Jones certainly has the coaching chops to milk the best from this bunch, and Friday offered evidence.
"I couldn't be more pleased with the effort," Jones said. "Certainly our execution needs to be better, particularly at crunch time."