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Fontana Scores Career-High 19 Points as ODU Tops Southern Miss, 68-62


NORFOLK, Va. Brenda Fontana scored a career-high 19 points and Old Dominion women's basketball secured its 10th win of the season as the Monarchs defeated Southern Miss 68-62 on Saturday afternoon at Chartway Arena.

"We wanted to come back and get on the winning side of the column," head coach DeLisha Milton-Jones said in the postgame press conference. "We knew that we had to make some quick adjustments, have some hard-hitting conversations with one another after the loss to Louisiana, and I think we came out tonight and you saw a spirited team, a focused team, and a determined team."
Up by 20 midway through the second quarter and ahead 34-22 at halftime, ODU saw that lead disappear as a Brikayla Gray layup with 58 seconds left in the third knotted the game at 40-40. Fouled on the shot, she then made her ensuing free throw to give the Lady Eagles (7-6, 0-3 Sun Belt) their first lead of the game. After Southern Miss' Melyia Grayson followed with a 2-for-2 effort at the line, Mimi McCollister scored a jumper to end the ODU scoring drought. Kaye Clark then stripped away the ball and got her layup to fall as the Monarchs (10-3, 2-1) went up 44-43 heading into the fourth quarter.
The visitors retook control 45-44 with a layup, but a jumper by Clark opened up a 7-0 Monarch run that was punctuated with Fontana's third three-pointer of the day. Southern Miss responded with a 7-0 run of its own to jump ahead 52-51 at the 5:33 mark, but that was the last time the visitors would lead. After Nnenna Orji and Jenny Nkem Womsi scored a pair of jumpers to push the lead to 60-54, ODU converted 8-of-12 shots at the line to close out the final two minutes of play.
"Although we were up by 20 at one point, Southern Miss fought back, as they should," added Milton-Jones. "They're a good ball club, with [Domonique] Davis on the floor or without Davis on the floor. But what a gutsy performance by her to be injured, a little labored, but still come in and give 14 points and provide some inspiration for her team. And then when you look at the work of Grayson, she's a load in the paint. Had she not fouled out, this game could have been completely different."

Nine different Monarchs found the scoring column. Fontana went 7-for-14 from the floor, 3-for-6 from the perimeter, and 2-for-3 at the charity stripe. The Moreno, Argentina native added one rebound, one assist, one block and one steal to her totals. Also reaching double figures were Clark with 13 points, and Jordan McLaughlin with 12 points. En'Dya Buford contributed seven points with six boards, and Clark matched Buford's effort on the glass.
The Monarchs combined to shoot 24-for-54 (.444) from the floor, 9-for-20 (.450) from deep, and 11-for-17 (.647) at the line. The nine three-pointers made matched the team's season high. ODU held the lead for just over 37 minutes and edged the Lady Eagles in points off turnovers (14-13), second-chance points (12-8), and fast-break points (20-13).

"What I'm proud of the most is the resiliency of our Lady Monarchs," said Milton-Jones. "They weathered the storm, they weathered the run that the Lady Eagles went on, and we were able to get back into the game, get the lead, and be strategic. We came up with great defensive plays in the right moments, especially by the young lady sitting to my left."

Fontana's previous career high of 13 points also came against Southern Miss back on Feb. 19, 2022 when she played at UTEP.

Asked about what she saw out on the floor, Fontana said, "Honestly, I just came in and wanted to win the game. I didn't know that my last career high was against them. I just came in and the shots that I had, I tried to take them and when it was there for another player, pass the ball and try and play the best that I can."

At one point midway through the fourth quarter, it looked as though the Lady Eagles had Fontana trapped in the paint, but the junior made a nice bounce pass through traffic that set up Nkem Womsi for an uncontested layup.

"She was open before me," Fontana added while laughing. "I was like, 'Why are you passing it to me?' So I just gave it back to her."
In the first quarter, the two sides were locked at 4-4 when Buford hit a three from the left wing. A McLaughlin three ball from the left wing pushed ODU's lead to 12-4 at the 4:52 mark, and a jumper in the paint by Mikayla Brown was later reviewed and deemed to have come after the shot clock expired.
Threes from Buford, Fontana and McLaughlin highlighted a 13-0 ODU run early in the second quarter as the Monarchs pulled away, 25-6. A late 8-0 push helped Southern Miss trim that lead to 33-22 with 30 seconds to go in the half. Buford then earned a trip to the line with five seconds left and made one of two free-throw attempts.  
ODU begins a four-game road swing next week, starting with a trip to Conway, South Carolina next Wednesday for a 6 p.m. meeting with Coastal Carolina.

"All in all, I'm pleased with the efforts, I love where we're going and what we're building towards, and the best is yet to come," said Milton-Jones.