But when he absolutely had to make them, Bacote came through.
The Monarchs' sophomore scored 20 points and ended a bout of shaky Old Dominion free-throw shooting by making 5 of 6 from the line in the final nine seconds as the Monarchs held off George Mason 71-66 Saturday night at Constant Center.
An 84 percent free throw shooter coming in, Bacote missed four in a row at some point, an effort so perplexing he and Monarchs coach Jeff Jones shared a chuckle about it during a break in the action.
"We did this free throw drill earlier today where you've got to make 20 in a row, and we got to 19 and I missed," Bacote said. "So it was a bad day from the start. But I mean, we persevered and made 'em when it counted and got the win."
Patriots guards Sherrod Wright and Patrick Holloway took turns whittling into Old Dominion's advantage, though. The duo scored 16 straight points as the Patriots crept to within five with less than two minutes left.
But Old Dominion guard Dimitri Batten drew a charge on Wright with 1:48 left, and the Monarchs survived despite missing 7 of 14 free throws from the 1:20 mark until Bacote stepped to the line with 9.8 seconds left and the Monarchs up by two. Bacote made both, hit 1 of 2 a few seconds later and made two more with two seconds left.
"It's a psychological thing," Jones said. "If you make free throws, it takes pressure off the next guy. If you're missing, it puts more importance on the next guy."
Wright led all scorers with 25, guard Bryon Allen added 18 and Holloway chipped in 10 for the Patriots (7-7), who dug themselves a hole with turnovers and sloppy play, according to coach Paul Hewitt.
"When we play well, we take care of the ball," Hewitt said. "When we play poorly, the first half is what we get."
Monarchs guard Jordan Baker's 3-pointer with 8:14 tied things at 21. Then Bacote went to work, scoring on two fast-break layups, a pull-up jumper in the lane and a baseline jumper before picking up his second foul and leaving the game with 4:55 remaining.
Guard Keenan Palmore scored nine first-half points to lead Old Dominion. Wright's seven points led the Patriots, who shot 37 percent and were hurt by 10 turnovers. The Monarchs scored 12 points off those mistakes.
"We played as though we thought they weren't going to compete," Hewitt said. "But they came in here and played hard, had a good crowd in the building. ... They just played better than us."
NOTES: Both teams, members of the Colonial Athletic Association through last season, were playing their final nonconference games before beginning conference play in new leagues. Old Dominion starts its Conference USA schedule Saturday at East Carolina, while George Mason begins Atlantic 10 play Thursday at VCU. ... The Monarchs, one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in Division I at 58.3 percent, hit 10 of their 11 first-half attempts. ... The Patriots came in having won five straight against the Monarchs, including an 85-74 victory in Norfolk last season.