NORFOLK, VA - Charleston Southern built a six-point halftime lead and put itself in position for the first national postseason win in school history but Old Dominion held on for a 65-56 victory in the first round of the NIT at the Ted Constant Convocation Center on Wednesday.
CSU (19-12, 13-5 Big South) earned a bid to the National Invitation Tournament thanks to its second Big South regular season championship in three years, and gave top-seeded Old Dominion (25-7, 13-5 Conference USA) all it could handle and more. The Bucs led 33-27 at halftime and were in front 43-38 with 12:45 remaining following one of Saah Nimley's six three-pointers. The Monarchs' Ambrose Mosley responded with three straight threes, though, and ODU stayed perfect at home before a raucous crowd of nearly 5,000 fans.
Nimley delivered another sensational performance for CSU and led all scorers with 27 points. His sixth and final trey came from deep on the left wing with a hand in his face, and cut the Old Dominion lead to 58-56 with 2:21 left. Mosley buried a three following an offensive rebound on ODU's ensuing possession, and the Monarchs kept CSU off the scoreboard the rest of the way.
Nimley scored CSU's first six points, started 3-of-3 three from downtown, and connected on back-to-back triples to stake the Bucs to a 43-38 advantage. The latter three forced an Old Dominion timeout and prompted a rare show of emotion from Nimley. It was the 17th time this season and 39th time in his career that Nimley has scored 20 or more points. Will Saunders added 13 points, and Arlon Harper chipped in nine and helped limit C-USA Newcomer of the Year Trey Freeman to 5-of-14 shooting.
Jonathan Arledge paced ODU with a double-double of 22 points and ten rebounds. Arledge grabbed five offensive rebounds and Taylor Denzell had six as Old Dominion posted a 19-10 edge on the offensive glass. Mosley finished with 15 points and five timely triples. The Bucs made Freeman work for his points, but the Campbell transfer tallied a triple-double overall with 14 points, 11 rebounds and ten assists.