The Lady Monarchs put on a three-act performance in their 65-53 win against Tulsa on Wednesday night.
Act 1 opened with a 19-2 run and closed with a 31-9 lead midway through the half.
Act 2 included Shae Kelley’s two quick fouls and a slapstick stumble into the locker room, with Tulsa trailing just 38-31.
Act 3 featured an ODU team that hit the boards, buckled down on defense and played to its strengths.
The drama amounted to a much-needed conference win for the Monarchs (11-12, 4-5 Conference USA).
Kelley scored a career-high 27 points, and Stephanie Gardner and Chelisa Painter each added 10. ODU outrebounded Tulsa 19-9 on the offensive boards and shut down its leading scorers. Ashley Clark, averaging 14 ppg, scored just eight; Kelsee Grovey, averaging 12.7, didn’t score at all.
And after Kadan Brady spurred the Golden Hurricane’s comeback with 17 first-half points, she went scoreless in the second half.
“The team took a personal challenge to step up defensively tonight and be aggressive,” ODU coach Karen Barefoot said. “We’re going to continue with that energy and intensity on the road against North Texas (on Saturday).”
The Monarchs, who had to rally to beat Marshall, winless in the conference, in overtime Saturday, picked up with that same sense of urgency Wednesday against a better team. Gardner scored eight points in the first 1:47, and the quick burst allowed the Monarchs to establish their press. They had eight steals and scored 24 points off turnovers in the first half, and most came in those first 10 minutes.
“Over half their points at halftime were a result of our miscues,” Tulsa coach Matilda Mossman said. “We haven’t been a team this season that has turned the ball over like that, so I think that was due to Old Dominion’s pressure. They were very aggressive on the ball and busy in the passing lanes.”
Kelley picked up two fouls 53 seconds apart, and in her absence Tulsa (10-9, 4-4) cut a 14-point deficit to five.
The Lady Monarchs shot just 33 percent in the second half and missed all seven attempts beyond the arc. Even so, they were able to bury Tulsa with a five-minute, 15-2 run capped by Odegua Oigbokie’s two putback baskets on consecutive possessions, the second going for three after a foul.
“Odegua can come off the bench and really give us that kind of energy and be a low-block presence,” Barefoot said. “The thing I like is that even on some of her misses, she took that ball hard up to the rim.”
Kelley took over from there. Barefoot had the Monarchs isolate Kelley in the post. Even when she missed, another ODU player was in position to grab the board. “It was just really all about mismatches and knowing where our strengths are on the court,” Kelley said. “That was on the block for me.”
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