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Brenda Fontana Scores 18 Points as ODU Women Pull Away From Coastal Carolina to Claim a 65-58 Victory


Brenda Fontana led ODU with 18 points

By Harry Minium
NORFOLK, Va. – Two minutes into the fourth quarter, one of the best players for the Old Dominion women's basketball team was in foul trouble and the Monarchs held a precarious, two-point lead over Coastal Carolina.
But buoyed by scoring bursts from Brenda Fontana and Simone Cunningham, ODU hit the afterburners and pulled away from the Chanticleers to claim a 65-58 Valentine's Day victory Wednesday night at Chartway Arena.
The victory gave ODU (18-6 overall, 9-4 Sun Belt) sole control of fourth place in the Sun Belt. ODU could take another big leap on Saturday when the Monarchs host first place Marshall (17-6, 11-1) at 2 p.m.
Marshall defeated the Monarchs, 90-60, when they last met on Jan. 18 in Huntington, West Virginia. ODU is on a hot streak, having won six of its last seven games. But so is Marshall, which has won 11 of its last 12.
ODU head coach DeLisha Milton-Jones said the loss at Marshall, and then a 72-64 defeat at James Madison two days later, were wake-up calls for her team.
"We became a better team because we then had a hard conversation," Milton-Jones said. "I love the fact that we got that type of loss at that point in the season rather than just experiencing that later in the season and not being able to recover.
"There were a lot of healing properties within that butt-whooping that we received from Marshall."
ODU led most of Wednesday's game, but Coastal took advantage of a significant height advantage to keep it close.
ODU point guard Jordan McLaughlin, who scored 38 points in her last two games, got her fourth foul in the third quarter and sat most of the rest of the game. She finished with two points.
But Coastal was short four players, including a starter and a substitute who plays significant minutes off the bench, and the Chanticleers (8-18, 2-11) could not match ODU's depth.
Six players played most of the game for Coastal, including guard Anaya Barney, who had 10 points in 40 minutes. Arin Freeman led Coastal with 21 points in 39 minutes.
Trailing by two, 48-46, with 7:36 to play, the Monarchs finally began to pull away. Cunningham, who had 12 points, made a jump shot in the lane followed by a jump shot and a free throw En'Dya Buford that gave ODU a 7-point lead with 6:42 left.
Four minutes later, Fontana missed a three-point shot that was rebounded by Mimi McCollister. She then passed it back to Fontana, who swished a three-pointer that gave ODU a 10-point lead, 59-49.
Coastal got no closer than six points the rest of the way.
Fontana, a 6-foot-1 junior from Moreno, Argentina, had 18 points, one point shy of her career high, and made 4 of 6 three-point shots.
Kaye Clark added 10 points and Buford nine points and five assists.
"Sometimes you just have to grind games out," Milton-Jones said. "I thought the game was rather choppy.
"But all in all, we were able to find a way to win.
"We love it when Brenda is aggressive and looking for herself. She's very unselfish. She is the glue to the team. She always wants to help. She is the good soldier, the one who's always going to lay herself on the line for others.
"And tonight, she took it upon herself to find opportunities and was able to capitalize in a big way."
Fontana acknowledged that she was looking ahead a little to the Marshall game.
"I've been looking forward to this game all week," she said. She called the 30-point loss "embarrassing," but noted that the first half was competitive.
"That's what I've been trying to focus on this week," she said. "It's not a team that is so much better than us. They just kept fighting until the end and we didn't and that makes me mad.

"I'm trying to capitalize all of that into anger, into more energy for the game. We can win, I know we can win. I kind of want them to feel like they're so much better than us because they don't really know the good version of our team yet.
"All they have played is the really bad version of our team."
Saturday's game is the annual Play4Kay contest, named for former North Carolina State coach Kay Yow, who died of breast cancer in 2009.
ODU will wear pink and cancer survivors, male and female, will be acknowledged.
The game is part of a doubleheader with the men's basketball team, which hosts Georgia State at 7 p.m.