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Women's Basketball Improves to 4-0, Defeats Texas Southern 57-38 on Education Day

Norfolk Public Schools

NORFOLK, Va. – The 2,500-plus Norfolk Public School students that came to Chartway Arena for Friday morning's Education Day Game gave Old Dominion women's basketball a decided home-court advantage as the Monarchs earned a 57-38 win over Texas Southern.

The victory marks the fourth in a row to start the team's 2023-24 campaign. It's also the first time ODU is 4-0 to start a season since 2012-13 when the Monarchs opened with wins over Virginia Tech, USC Upstate, VCU and Maryland Eastern Shore.

"It was such a tremendous atmosphere to see the kids here for Education Day," said head coach DeLisha Milton-Jones. "I think it's such a great cause and the superintendent does a fantastic job of organizing that. I want to send a special shoutout to all of the bus drivers because we know they provide that service for free, and we want to encourage more people to come."

En'Dya Buford was the leading scorer for the Monarchs, netting 10 points with five rebounds and four steals. Brenda Fontana and Mimi McCollister were next with eight points each, and Simone Cunningham and Kaye Clark followed with seven points each. ODU again struggled to get their shots to fall, combining to shoot 35.1 percent (20-for-57) from the floor, but made 66.7 percent (12-for-18) of their free throws and led the rebounding battle, 46-38.

"All in all, we won the game," continued Milton-Jones. "I'm pleased that we won, but I'm not satisfied with how we won. It's time for us to start putting this thing together and I know we're still going through our growing pains with 10 new players. I'm ready to change the conversation. Instead of me saying, 'Oh, we have 10 new players and we're working on our cohesiveness', I'm ready to say we are primed and ready. We're running like the machine that I know we can be on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. But all in all, pleased."

In what was very much a battle of possession, both teams collected 11 steals with the Monarchs also committing a season high in turnovers.

"Not pleased with 21 turnovers. Pleased with the fact that we outrebounded them, but I feel like it could have been better. I'm not pleased with the fact that they had more possessions than us in the game. Usually we tend to have 20 possessions more than our opponent, but the 21 turnovers is the thing that probably shot us in the foot from achieving that goal."

The opening quarter remained close until Jordan McLaughlin broke a 9-9 tie with a three-pointer from the top of the arc. A few possessions later, Nnenna Orji followed with a 1-for-2 effort at the free-throw line and McCollister added a deep ball to give ODU a 16-9 advantage. The Tigers (1-2) then closed out the period with a jumper in the paint.

TSU scored the first bucket of the second quarter, but that was all the Tigers would get for the remainder of the opening half. Another three-ball by McCollister at the 9:21 mark opened up a 15-0 response by the home team. Buford capped off the run with a long ball with just under 20 seconds remaining in the half and ODU went into the locker room with a 31-13 advantage.

"I think the second quarter was more so about us just getting back to basics," said Milton-Jones. "What's the scouting report, what's our personnel and who's doing their job and are we doing it as a unit? If everyone is locked and loaded, they're concentrating at a high rate and they're communicating at an even higher rate, than we can really be stymieing for our opponents. And that second quarter showed that, to hold them to two points with the aggressiveness and the movement that they have offensively, I tip my hat off to what we did on the defensive end in that quarter."

A deep ball from Clark gave ODU its largest lead in the game, 37-14 with 7:43 to play in the third quarter. TSU was able to trim that lead to 53-38, but with just over a minute left in the game, the Tigers wouldn't get any closer. The Monarchs converted 7-of-9 shots in the final 10 minutes for yet another strong finish at the charity stripe.

On the team's effort at the line today, Milton-Jones commented, "It's pleasing to know that we are stepping up to the line. Whether it's a pressurized situation or not, we are knocking it down. That's always a pleasant sight as a coach and it's free points. To get those, it's a morale boost. To not get them, it can kind of suck the energy out of the team. Like the same way you miss a layup in transition by yourself, it kind of just sucks the energy out of you a little bit. I'm glad to see that this is a category that we're taking care of this year and it's going to come in big time for us when we're in close situations."

The loud environment didn't seem to affect Fontana's play as she led ODU on the glass with 11 rebounds and added one assist, one block and one steal to her totals.

On playing with the noise, she said "It's not an issue for us to communicate because we work on that in practice. We always say to be ready for when there's a lot of people in the gym, so we try to communicate as loud as we can and to talk continuously. Even when you're not involved in an action, you still have to communicate."

Asked about today's environment, she went on to say "On the offensive and defensive end, the energy was way higher. Sometimes they had a turnover and it was not caused by us, but [the crowd] would still cheer for us, and that feels good. Energy is always good for us."

ODU has a break for Thanksgiving, but will seek its first 5-0 start since the 1998-99 season when the Monarchs host Elon for a 6:30 p.m. contest on Tuesday, Nov. 28.

"The thing that I told [the team] in the locker room is that we're not satisfied, and people still have to challenge themselves and work on their games," said Milton-Jones in closing. "If you're going to come and play for ODU women's basketball, you're going to be a two-way player. We don't have one-dimensional players where they only play on the offensive end and they take plays off defensively. No, you're going to eat and we're going to cook on both ends of the floor. We want you to get in your bag offensively, but we want you to lock up and be tenacious defensively. So between now and when we play again, we're going to look in the mirror and take an honest assessment of our play up to this point. We're going to do more team bonding things during this time to help us refortify and reinforce anything that could be a potential crack in our foundation later."