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ODU Women's Basketball Rolls Past Elon, 60-29, to Remain Unbeaten at 5-0


By Harry Minium
NORFOLK, Va. – Last season the Old Dominion women's basketball team led Elon by 10 at halftime before allowing the Phoenix to score the game's five final points and claim a 71-68 victory.
A year later, the Monarchs made sure there would be no similar Elon comeback.
Leading by just two points after the first quarter, ODU outscored Elon, 37-9, in the second and third quarters and coasted to a 60-29 victory Tuesday evening at Chartway Arena.
The victory moved ODU to 5-0 for the first time since 1998-99 and the Monarchs have won all five handily. Heading into Tuesday night, ODU was one of 26 unbeaten Division I teams.
Veteran guard Kaye Clark led ODU with 15 points and was the only Monarch in double figures on a night when head coach DeLisha Milton-Jones spread out playing time and thus scoring. She used 13 players, and none played more than 25 minutes.
Simone Cunningham, a 5-foot-10 junior college transfer from Pleasant Grove, Alabama, was a workhorse on the boards, hauling down 12 of ODU's 43 rebounds. She also had eight points, as did Lanetta Williams, the 6-3 forward who transferred from Memphis.
Brenda Fontana (seven points, six rebounds) and En'Dya Buford (seven points, four rebounds, four assists) played well in limited minutes, as did Ivi Nikolova, a junior college transfer from Samokov, Bulgaria, who made two three-point shots after going a combined 2 for 11 in previous ODU games.
"I'm proud of our ballclub," Milton-Jones said. "We did not shoot as well as I would have liked but I'm still pleased with the effort.
"We take a lot of pride in what we do on the defensive end, and it has proven to be the remedy" for poor shooting.
The Monarchs made 21 of 57 shots (36.8), which while not great, was much better than Elon, which made just 11 of 47 (23.4 percent). Elon was without two starters, both out with injuries.
ODU appeared to take command of the game in the first quarter, when the Monarchs led 9-1 only to see Elon trim the lead to two by the end of the quarter.
Milton-Jones gave her team a tongue-lashing between quarters and the Monarchs played with more energy and urgency the rest of the game.
"Coach D is a very animated woman on the bench when we're not doing what she thinks we need to be doing," Cunningham said. "She told us that we needed to pick up our energy."
Clark closed out the first half with a three-point shot and then a three-point play to give the Monarchs a 30-15 lead.
Nikolova then ended a 10-1 ODU run to start the second-half with a fallaway three-jumper shot that drew a standing ovation from of 1,663. Elon (2-5) never threatened again.
"I felt like we were playing on the level of Elon and not really playing at the level of ODU," Milton-Jones said. "I felt like we were allowing them to run their sets rather than dictating the way that we like to."
ODU led the nation in scoring defense at 44.8 points per game entering Tuesday night. The stellar defensive performance against Elon dropped that number to 41.6 points.
ODU plays at William & Mary Thursday at 7 and when hosts Florida Gulf Coast Sunday at 1 p.m. at Chartway Arena.
A year ago, Florida Gulf Coast was 33-4, advanced to the NCAA Tournament second round and finished 24th last season in the coaches' poll.
"I love the fact that the schedule is set that way," Milton-Jones said. "I feel like this stretch of games will allow us to get a good rhythm and momentum going if we win."
Asked if being unbeaten put any pressure on she and her teammates, Cunningham replied: "Pressure is a privilege. So, we're going to take it and continue to keep rolling with it one game at a time."