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ODU Women's Basketball Team Holds off ULM, 67-64, and will Face Marshall in Sun Belt semifinals Sunday


Lanetta Williams gave ODU a boost off the bench, with seven rebounds and four points

PENSACOLA, Fla. – The Old Dominion women's basketball team hopes that the third time will be the charm against Marshall.
The Monarchs took care of business in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament by the narrowest of margins, defeating Louisiana-Monroe, 67-64, Friday evening at the Bay Center.
ODU led by 16 twice late in the third quarter, and then watched ULM then take a one-point lead twice in the final minutes before the Monarchs rallied and won the game at the foul line.
The Monarchs (22-8) have a day off Saturday and then will take on Sun Belt regular-season champion Marshall Monday at 1:30 p.m. ET in the tournament semifinals.
Marshall blew out Appalachian State, 116-74, earlier Friday to advance to the semifinals. The Thundering Herd (24-6) have won eight in a row, 18 of 19 games against Sun Belt teams and defeated ODU handily twice.
Marshall rolled to a 90-60 triumph in Huntington, West Virginia in January. The Monarchs played much better in Norfolk a month later, but fell to the Herd again, 89-75.
Marshall's fast-break offense leads the conference with an average of 86.5 points per game. After getting off to a 2-4 start, the Thundering Herd upset Florida at home and have lost only two games since – to Wake Forest and James Madison.
Most of its Sun Belt victories were won in double digits.
"Marshall is a very good team and has proven that throughout the season with how they have handled every team," ODU head coach DeLisha Milton-Jones said.
"Many different things about their style of play can distract you from how you want to play. Their tempo is so fast.
"If you can play with some level of composure and resolve, then you can find your way."
It took a lot of composure and resolve for the fourth-seeded Monarchs to defeat fifth-seeded ULM (19-13).
ODU was without En'Dya Buford, its leading scorer and a third-team All-Sun Belt choice, who is sidelined with an injury.
Three starters all picked up their game and produced more points than their average.
Senior point guard Jordan McLaughlin led the Monarchs with 19 points and also dished out five assists and had two steals. She had just two turnovers in more than 38 minutes on the court.
Center Brenda Fontana scored 15 points and yanked down 11 rebounds while Kaye Clark, the Sun Belt's Defensive Player of the Year, scored 12.
ODU got a huge lift off the bench from Lanetta Williams (four points, seven rebounds) and Halima Salat (nine points), whose back-to-back three pointers in the final minute of the first half gave the Monarchs a 38-28 lead.
"I love the fact that these two women came in and played big-time minutes for us and got buckets for us when we needed it the most," Milton-Jones said.
The Monarchs extended a lead they held most of the game to 16, 51-35, on a jump shot from Williams with 4:03 left in the third quarter. Fontana gave ODU another 16-point lead, 53-37, when she banked in a layup with 2:53 left in the third period.
But then ODU went cold and ULM got hot.
Daisha Bradford got a steal and a layup to trim the ODU lead to 10 in the final seconds of the third quarter.
After Clark made a short jump shot with 8:50 left in the game that gave ODU its last 10-point lead, the Monarchs went scoreless for 3 ½ minutes, and by the time Fontana broke the streak with two free throws with 5:28 left to play, ODU led by two.
Bradford made two free throws with 1:21 left to give ULM a 61-60 lead, its first since the first quarter.
McLaughlin then took over in the final minute. She gave ODU the lead for good, 64-63, on a jump shot with 42 seconds left. She made one of two free throws with 22 seconds left to make it 65-63.
Then, her two free throws with eight seconds left gave ODU a 67-64 lead, and the Monarchs held their breath as ULM's Brianna Harris had an open three-pointer that rimmed out with a second to go.
"We had control of the game, but basketball is a game of runs," Milton-Jones said. "They had a tremendous run to get back in it."
Milton-Jones said the Monarchs will need to be play much better Sunday than they did against ULM to have a chance to upend Marshall.
"If we are able to set the tone, control the tempo, don't allow them to speed us up. If we do all of that, we can walk away with a win," she said.