NORFOLK, Virginia (AP) Faced with the end of their season, let alone their 21-game home-court winning streak, Old Dominion's Monarchs dug in.
Down the stretch against dogged Charleston Southern in the opening round of the NIT on Wednesday night, the Monarchs took over.
''We worked too hard this year, we've had such a great season,'' said ODU forward Jonathan Arledge, who scored 12 of his team-high 22 points in the second half of the top-seeded Monarchs' 65-56 victory. ''We're expecting something good out of this.''
Charleston Southern (19-12), champion of the Big South, led at the half 33-27 behind 7-for-12 shooting from 3-point range, while the Monarchs went 2 for 16 from the arc.
But after halftime, Arledge got hot from the paint, guard Ambrose Mosley hit 4 of 8 3-pointers and point guard Trey Freeman completed a triple-double, ODU's first since Mark West in 1982, to put away the Bucs.
Freeman finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
''They're one of the best-coached teams in the country, as fundamentally sound as there is,'' Buccaneers coach Barclay Radebaugh said of ODU.
''We gave every single thing we had. Credit Old Dominion. Particularly defensively, they made plays when they had to make plays.''
Spurred at halftime by coach Jeff Jones to attack the Bucs harder in order to raise their intensity, the Monarchs (25-7) of Conference USA surged to the lead in the opening minutes of the second period.
But the Bucs, behind 27 points from Big South Player of the Year Saah Nimley, were still within 58-56 with 2 1/2 minutes to play.
However, Mosley, who also helped limit Nimley to 12 points in the second half, answered with a 3-pointer with 1:40 left that gave ODU its late cushion.
The Monarchs closed with four free throws as Charleston Southern missed four desperation 3s.
The Bucs, who shot 50 percent in the first half, made only 23 percent from the field in the second half. ODU shot 47 percent after intermission and outrebounded the smallish Bucs 46-36 for the game.
The victory was ODU's 22nd in a row at the Constant Center and the 400th of coach Jeff Jones' career.
The Monarchs advance to play Illinois State.
''Charleston Southern really competed,'' Jones said. ''Because we couldn't get a handle on (Nimley) in the first half, we were on our heels the entire time.
''Ambrose getting into him a little more in the second half gave us more of an aggressive mentality.''