After winning five straight games, the Old Dominion Monarchs looked well on their way to a sixth in a row on Saturday night against conference opponent UTSA. ODU had a 17-point lead on the Roadrunners with just over three minutes to play, all but locking up the victory they needed to take the top spot in the Conference USA standings. It was going to be the type of win that got them one step closer to March. That was until it became shocking loss that could be a resume-killer come tourney time.
Thanks to analytics, we know that ODU had an over 99-percent chance to win the game with as little as two minutes remaining. Leading by 14 with 2:05 to play, all the Monarchs had to do was not completely melt down. SPOILER ALERT: They melted down:
Even after UTSA cut it to 11, ODU still had a win probability of 99.1-percent. But any time you start playing the win probability game, you enter dangerous territory. Am I right Falcons fans? Georgia fans? Saints fans? Ok, I'll stop.
The key to UTSA's comeback, as always in college hoops, was ODU's poor free throw shooting. Yes, obviously you need to hit shots, threes especially, but the missed free throws give the trailing team belief they can pull off the miracle. If ODU could have just kept trading twos for threes, they likely still win easily. Instead, they went 4-for-8 in the final two minutes, and the Roadrunners capitalized, producing the game of the day on a Saturday that included Kansas-Kentucky, West Virginia-Tennessee and Syracuse-Virginia Tech. Those all paled in comparison to this matchup of C-USA titans.