ODU Advances to C-USA Quarterfinals with 62-55 Win Over North Texas
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Old Dominion advanced to the quarterfinal round of the 2016 Conference USA Women’s Basketball Championship after defeating North Texas for the third time this season, 62-55, on Wednesday afternoon at Bartow Arena. The Lady Monarchs will take on No. 4 seed Charlotte at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow.
"The first game is always the toughest," said head coach Karen Barefoot. "I kept telling our team to relax, even when North Texas took the lead late in the fourth quarter. We were out of sync for a little and I am really proud that we didn't fold when they took the lead. We fought back and scrapped. It's tournament time, which means it's a new season. Survive or go home. Our team wasn't satisfied with how we were playing, especially in the fourth quarter, so I said 'let's go to work, let's get back to being us!' and after I started to see players step up defensively and our energy start to come back. It was exciting to see our team execute the plays at the end of the game and I know we will be ready to go tomorrow!"
Jennie Simms led the way with 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting for her fifth 30-plus game of the season, the most in C-USA. She also added four rebounds and three steals. Keyana Brown chipped in eight points and two rebounds, while Destinee Young pulled in a team-high eight boards.
North Texas (11-19, 5-13) scored first 58 second into the contest, but the Lady Monarchs quickly responded with a layup from Ije Ajemba to tie the game. ODU (15-16, 10-8) eventually took a two-point lead (7-4) after an old-fashioned three-point play from Simms, a lead that the team wouldn’t relinquish until late in the fourth quarter. With a little over four minutes left in the first quarter, the Lady Monarchs went on a 8-4 run, sparked by a Brown layup and capped by a free-throw from Rhaven Kemp to hold a 19-10 advantage heading into the second period. The Lady Monarchs were tough on defense during that span and forced the Mean Green into four turnovers and just 2-for-6 shooting.
ODU consistently held on to a 6-to-8 point lead over the opening five minutes of the second quarter. However, the Lady Monarchs started to pull away and held a 10-point edge at the intermission. ODU once again picked up with defensive effort in the final four minutes and held the Mean Green to a scoring drought of 3:44, which included three turnovers and a 0-for-5 showing from the floor. On the season, Old Dominion is 13-4 and 9-1 against Conference USA opponents when leading at halftime.
The Mean Green had no answer for the league’s leading scorer in the first half, as Simms posted 15 points in 19 minutes of action. She went 6-for-10 from the floor and 2-for-2 from the charity stripe. As a team, ODU shot 48.0 percent, while holding North Texas to 38.5 percent from the floor and 16.7 percent from beyond the arc.
A quick timeout was called by ODU at the 8:28 mark, after North Texas scored the first five points of the third period (33-28). The Mean Green kept chipping away at the ODU lead and pulled within six points by the 4:30 media timeout. Ajemba and Simms were the only two players to score for the Lady Monarchs over the first 5-plus minutes, with the center leading the way with four points. Coach Barefoot got her team to pull together, as the Lady Monarchs went on a quick 5-0 spurt, capped by another Simms three-point play to pull ahead by 11 points (44-33) with 3:02 left in the third. The Mean Green closed the period with four fast points, but the Lady Monarchs were the ones to hold the 47-40 lead heading into the final period.
After leading by seven points with 8:55 left in the game, North Texas mounted a comeback with a 10-2 run to tie the game at the 5:52 mark. The Mean Green took the lead for the first time since the eight-minute mark in the first quarter with a jumper from Acheil Tac at the top of the key at the 4:58 mark. North Texas took a three-point advantage (54-51) by the 4:11 mark, but coach Barefoot and the first team all-conference guard had a different outcome in their minds.
After a pair of free-throws from Gianna Smith to give ODU a one-point lead (55-54) with 2:32 left to play, coach Barefoot made the decision to use her final timeout with 2:11 on the clock to implement plays the team has been working on in practice. Following the break, Simms capitalized on those plays with four points in a span of one minute to give the Lady Monarchs the five-point edge (59-54) with 58 seconds left in the game. ODU sealed the game by forcing North Texas into a turnover with 15 seconds left, giving Simms the chance to drain two more free-throws in the closing seconds.
“I prepare during the off-season to play a lot of minutes down the stretch, and to help my team when they need me," said Simms. "I don’t feel any pressure in close games because it is something that we practice a lot so that we’re ready for moments like this. My team is always uplifting me, and letting me know that they’re there for me if I need them.”
For the game, ODU shot a staggering 50.0 percent (21-42), while holding North Texas to 39.6 percent from the floor (21-53). The Lady Monarchs also converted on 17-of-21 free-throws for an 81.0 percentage. On the glass, ODU held a 27-22 edge, including an 18-10 advantage on the defensive end.
Kelsey Criner and Candice Adams paced North Texas with 13 points apiece, while Terra Ellison chipped in 11 points for the Mean Green.
UP NEXT FOR ODU
The Lady Monarchs advanced to the quarterfinal round and will take on the No. 4 seeded Charlotte 49ers at 2:30 p.m. (ET) on Thursday. The game will be on American Sports Network and will be broadcast locally in Hampton Roads on WTVZ 33.2. Fans can also watch the free live web stream on americansportsnet.com.
Doug Ripley and Susan Montgomery will also be on the radio broadcast that will be housed on STAR 1310 AM, with the show starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET). The broadcast will also be streamed through Monarch Media on www.odusports.com.
Once the contest begins, live stats will be available.
Following each contest, fans can tune into all post-game press conferences, courtesy of the C-USA Digital Network.
Be sure to follow ODU Women’s Basketball on Twitter (@ODUWBB) and Instagram (@oduwbasketball) and ‘Like’ the ODU Lady Monarch Basketball on Facebook to stay up to date with the latest news and coverage during the 2016 Conference USA Women’s Basketball Championship.