ODU Dances Into Championship Game with 66-54 Upset Over No. 1 UTEP
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The Old Dominion Lady Monarchs are dancing into the Conference USA Tournament championship game after posting a 66-54 upset of No. 1 UTEP on Friday morning at Legacy Arena. ODU made its second-consecutive trip to the C-USA semifinals after defeating Charlotte on Thursday and is making its first appearance in the championship game with the win today.
“UTEP has had a good season and we knew we had to have a good game, but right now everything is coming together at the right time for us," said head coach Karen Barefoot. "UTEP puts pressure on you better than any team in the country, no matter who’s on the floor. The team that won this game was going to be the team that handled adversity the best, and today we made enough plays to win. I am so proud of this team in how they handled the pressure and kept fighting when the game got close. We have worked all year for this moment! We will celebrate this win for a little bit, then get right back to work to prepare for tomorrow!”
Jennie Simms led the team with her second double-double of the season after finishing the game with 21 points and 10 rebounds to go along with her game-high seven assists. Ije Ajemba added 14 points and seven rebounds for the Lady Monarchs while Gianna Smith reached double figures with 10 points on the day. Destinee Young led all rebounders with 12 and chipped in six points and one steal. Keyana Brown had a solid game of eight points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
The two teams traded baskets over the first four minutes, as the game was tied at 4-4 by the 6:02 mark. The Lady Monarchs then went on a 7-2 run, sparked by a Brown three from downtown, to pull ahead by five points two minutes later. The Miners chipped away and knotted the score at 12-10 in favor of ODU, but Simms and Brown closed the period with three points to give the Lady Monarchs the five-point advantage (15-10) after the first 10 minutes of play.
Old Dominion saw its lead grow to as many as 14 points in the opening 4:05 of the second period, as the team went on a 9-0 run. The Lady Monarchs were locked in defensively and held UTEP scoreless on 0-for-8 shooting during that run. ODU continued to be aggressive and took a 17-point lead at the 3:32 mark after a Young layup to beat the shot clock. The Miners responded with four straight points from the foul line, followed by a three from Starr Breedlove to pull within 10 points with 2:06 remaining until halftime. Simms drove through the entire UTEP defense to score her 13th point of the half, but UTEP got one free-throw from Tamara Seda to go into the intermission down 11 to the Lady Monarchs.
ODU shot 40 percent from the field in the first half of 10-of-25 shooting, while stifling the UTEP offense, allowing the Miners to connect on just 7-of-31 shots (23%). The Lady Monarchs were aggressive in attacking the basket in the opening half and went to the line 15 times, connecting on 11. Behind four rebounds from Simms and Young, ODU also held a 24-17 edge on the boards.
UTEP flipped the momentum in the first four minutes of the third period and picked up the full court pressure. The Miners forced ODU into five turnovers and went on an 8-0 run in a span of 1:06 to pull within four points (38-34) with 5:52 left on the clock. UTEP increased that run to a 14-2 spurt to tie the game (40-40) with 2:37 left in the third period. Simms broke the three minute ODU scoring drought after corralling a rebound and tipping the ball back in (2:19). The Lady Monarchs closed the final minute with four unanswered points from Ajemba to enter the final period with a 46-42 advantage over the Miners.
Coach Barefoot lit a fire in her team to start the final period, and ODU saw its lead grow back to 11 points (55-44) by the 4:54 media timeout. The Lady Monarchs went on 9-2 spurt, while holding UTEP scoreless for 4:05, forcing the Miners' head coach to call the 30-second timeout. Simms started to take over, scoring four of the nine points and assisting two buckets. UTEP pulled within six points (55-49) after five unanswered points by the 3:57 mark, but the Lady Monarchs got two foul shots from Brown and Ajemba and a dagger of a three by Smith off an assist by Simms to hold a 60-49 edge with 2:26 left in the game.
With guidance from coach Barefoot after a timeout was called with 2:05 remaining, the Lady Monarchs handled the UTEP pressure with ease and scored their final six points from the foul line. Rhaven Kemp led the way with four points to secure the upset victory and dance into the C-USA championship game.
For the game, ODU shot 39.1 percent from the floor (18-46), while holding the Miners to 28.8 percent on a 19-66 showing. The Lady Monarchs also shot 63.3 percent from the foul line, but attempted and made a season high after going 25-of-41. On the glass, ODU held a 47-36 edge, including a 35-22 advantage on the defensive boards.
Cameasha Turner paced UTEP with 18 points, while Jenzel Nash added 13 points and five rebounds. Starr Breedlove finished the game with 10 points, four assists and four steals.
UP NEXT FOR ODU
The Lady Monarchs will take on the winner of No. 6 Marshall vs. No. 2 Middle Tennessee in the C-USA Tournament championship match at Legacy Arena. The game will take place at 8:00 p.m. (ET) on Saturday and will again be broadcast nationally on CBS Sports Network.
The game will also be broadcast on ESPN 94.1 FM and Monarch Media with Doug Ripley and Susan Montgomery on the call. The radio show will begin at 7:30 p.m. (ET)..
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.