BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Old Dominion saw its post-season run come to an end in the 2016 Conference USA Championship after falling to Middle Tennessee, 70-54, in the title match on Saturday night at Legacy Arena.
The Lady Monarchs finished the season with a 17-17 overall record and will wait to find out if they earned a bid to the WNIT for the third-straight year. The committee will announce the 64 teams Monday evening within an hour of the NCAA Tournament unveiling, which begins at 7:00 p.m. All of the information regarding the tournament can be found at www.womensnit.com.
Jennie Simms led the Lady Monarchs with 21 points, eight rebounds and two assists and at the conclusion of the tournament, she was named to the C-USA All-Tournament team for the second consecutive year. Ije Ajemba finished with nine points and 10 rebounds, while Gianna Smith chipped in eight points and four rebounds.
Middle Tennessee opened the game with intensity and held ODU scoreless for 3:29 to take a 13-7 lead over the Lady Monarchs with 4:07 left in the first quarter. Annika Holopainen knocked down her first three-pointer since Jan. 23 at Marshall, while ODU got a bucket from Simms in the final two minutes to pull within six, but MTSU closed the period with a layup by Ty Petty to hold the 20-12 edge after the first 10 minutes of play.
Holopainen drained a three just 13 seconds into the second period, pulling the Lady Monarchs within five points (20-15). The Blue Raiders then put together another 7-0 run to take their first double-digit lead of the contest (27-15) with 5:58 on the clock, forcing ODU to call another timeout. Simms ended a 7:21 scoring drought for ODU after hitting an old-fashioned three-point play with 2:34 left until halftime (32-18). That play sparked a 4-0 run by the Lady Monarchs to close the final minute before halftime, knotting the score at 24-22 in favor of MTSU. Old Dominion started chipping away at the Blue Raiders’ lead on the because of tough defense in the final two minutes, forcing MTSU into three turnovers.
The Lady Monarchs were held to just 28 percent shooting (8-29), while the Blue Raiders made 14-of-29 shots for a 48 percent shooting percentage. The Blue Raiders held the slight 22-17 advantage on the glass, while holding an overwhelming 18-6 edge in the paint.
Old Dominion came out hot in the third quarter and pulled within nine points (37-28) by the 6:49 mark behind a 6-3 run. However, after the 4:40 media timeout the Blue Raiders started to pull away once again and took a 13-point advantage heading into the final period (48-35).
MTSU saw its lead grow to as many as 17 points by the 7:26 mark of the fourth period, as it continued to stifle the ODU offense. Ajemba was the only Lady Monarch to score during that span, with two points from the charity stripe. Old Dominion started to make shots after the final media timeout, but kept trading baskets with the Blue Raiders and couldn’t overcome the double-digit deficit.
For the game, ODU shot 27.4 percent from the floor (17-62), while MTSU went 22-for-51 for 43.1 percent. The Blue Raiders also held a 43-40 edge on the glass.
Ty Petty, the C-USA Tournament MVP, led MTSU with 19 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Brea Edwards also finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds, earning her a spot on the all-tournament team, while Abbey Sissom chipped in 11 points.
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