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Monarch Defense Proves too Much for Georgia Southern

Georgia Southern Athletics

STATESBORO, Ga. – In a battle between one of the Sun Belt's top offensive squads and one of the league's top defensive teams, it was Old Dominion women's basketball that came away with a 70-50 win over Georgia Southern on Saturday afternoon at Hanner Fieldhouse.

"We definitely wanted the offensive side of the ball to be something that we could establish ourselves within tonight," said head coach DeLisha Milton-Jones. "I thought our team did a great job of remaining poised. We know Georgia Southern is the type of team where they can muck the game up in terms of making you play faster than you want by having random traps and blitzes taking place. So we were well-prepared for anything that they threw at us and I knew that we were going to be the team that finally makes shots."

Tied at 16-16 at the end of the first quarter, the Monarchs (12-3, 4-1 Sun Belt) started to pull away in the second as En'Dya Buford and Jenny Nkem Womsi opened the quarter with back-to-back layups. Mimi McCollister then earned a trip to the line and made all three of her free throws to push ODU's lead to 23-18. A Jordan McLaughlin three-pointer highlighted a 7-0 run that made it 32-23, and a jumper by McLaughlin and a free throw from Brenda Fontana capped off the first half as the Monarchs led the Eagles (13-4, 3-2) at the break, 35-25.

ODU outscored the home team 16-10 in the third quarter and 19-15 in the fourth as Georgia Southern couldn't find its way back into the game. ODU's largest lead was 22 points as a Fontana three-pointer capped off another 7-0 run that made it 62-40 with 4:19 left in the fourth.

McLaughlin scored 12 points as she shot 4-for-6 from the field, 1-for-2 from distance, and 3-for-4 at the line. The Charlotte, North Carolina native also grabbed five rebounds and had two assists with two steals. Also scoring 12 points was Fontana, who went 4-for-6 from the floor, was a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, and was 1-for-2 at the line. The junior from Moreno, Argentina added two boards, one block and one steal to her totals.

Nnenna Orji followed with eight points and five rebounds, Buford and McCollister turned in a pair of seven-point efforts, and Kaye Clark set a new season high with seven rebounds. ODU had 12 different players find the scoring column as the Monarchs scored 70 or more points for the fourth time this season.

ODU shot 25-for-57 (.439) on the afternoon, 5-for-16 (.313) from the perimeter, and 15-for-22 (.682) at the line. The Monarchs edged the Eagles in points off turnovers (26-13), points in the paint (34-18), second-chance points (14-7), fast-break points (14-6) and points off the bench (32-14).

"I just bank on the fact that our defense is the foundation of what we do," continued Milton-Jones. "Once my players understand the fatigue levels of being a two-way player, the shots will begin to fall and I'm glad that they're starting to do that now because it's proving that vision and that point out clearly."

The Monarchs also out-rebounded the hosts (42-37) and committed fewer turnovers (21-23). ODU held GS, which came into the game ranked 23rd in the country in scoring with 80.8 points per game, to its fewest points scored this season.

Terren Ward, named the Sun Belt Player of the Week for the fourth time on Tuesday, was held to just 16 points after averaging 23.6 ppg. ODU's defense limited her to just eight points in the first half.

Asked about the team's group effort in the win, Milton-Jones added, "It's everyone having a collective mindset that is unified on the defensive end. But then sometimes you can play against players that are so aggressive and they want their numbers, they can almost help you in your pursuit of stopping them. As long as we keep bodies in the positions that we need them in, aggressive players will take bad shots and all I wanted our players to do is to make sure that every shot that she took today was contested or had her off-balance."

Up next for ODU is a trip to Huntington, West Virginia next Thursday for a 6 p.m. game at Marshall.