ODU Women’s Basketball Team Stages a Dramatic Rally Before Falling to Charlotte, 64-61

by Harry Minium

NORFOLK, Va. – As usual, the Old Dominion and Charlotte women’s basketball teams played a heart-thumping game that came down to the final seconds Wednesday night at Chartway Arena.

ODU staged an almost miraculous rally, erasing an 11-point Charlotte lead in a minute and 36 seconds to tie the score at 61-all with 24.2 seconds to go. But Charlotte’s KeKe McKinney and Mikyala Boykin blocked ODU shots in the final 15 seconds, and the 49ers made their final three free throws claim a 64-61 victory.

The loss was only the second in the last 14 games for ODU (14-4, 3-2 Conference USA). But both losses came in conference play, and the Monarchs fell to fifth in the East Division.

Charlotte (9-6, 5-0), second in the East Division, defeated ODU twice in overtime last season before losing to the Monarchs by a point in double overtime in the C-USA Tournament.

The 49ers took an eight-point lead into the final period and for a time, staved off ODU’s attempts to cut into the margin. When Charlotte’s Octavia Jett-Wilson made one of two three free throws with two minutes left, it seemingly gave the 49ers an insurmountable 11-point lead.

A vocal crowd of 1,620 roared its approval as ODU staged its dramatic rally.

It started with two Amari Young free throws that trimmed the lead to eight. Coach DeLisha Milton-Jones then sent her team into a full-court press, and it paid off when junior college transfer Kaye Clark stole a pass and tossed it to Young as she was falling out of bounds.

Young was underneath the basket when she passed to Mariah Adamswho drained a 3-pointer with 1:25 left that cut the lead to five, 60-55.

Adams then picked off another pass and fed to Iggy Allen for a layup. She was fouled and made the foul shot to cut the lead to 61-58 with 51 seconds left.

Jada McMillian missed two free throws with 27 seconds left, and Milton-Jones called an immediate timeout. She then inserted 6-foot-3 post player Brianna Jackson into the game – Jackson had been on the bench with four fouls.

Milton Jones called a set play. Adams tossed into Jackson, who made a layup and was fouled. Her foul shot with 23 seconds left tied the score at 61-all.

The Monarchs then committed an ill-advised foul, and McMillian made one of two free throws with 15 seconds left to give Charlotte a 62-61 lead.

Allen was driving for a layup with 10 seconds left when McMillian blocked it as the ball was headed for the backboard. The Monarchs immediately fouled Boykin, who made two free throws.

ODU inbounded with nine seconds left needing a 3-pointer to send the game into overtime. but as Ajah Wayne took a pass near the top of the key, she was surrounded by Charlotte players. Wayne tried to put up a 3-pointer – she had no choice with the buzzer ready to sound – but Boykin was in her face and blocked it as the buzzer sounded.

ODU shot poorly, did not rebound as well as usual and its defense was softer than usual, but the Monarchs drew some solace from their frantic rally.

“I think it shows how tenacious we are as a team and how we just fight to the end,” Young said.

“A lot of teams would have laid down if they were down by 10 or 11 points. It shows how we can handle adverse situations and how good our defense can be when we execute it.”

Milton-Jones bemoaned her team’s play in the first 38 minutes. The Monarchs often settled for long jump shots rather than pounding the ball inside.

“Tonight we had a beautiful effort in the last two minutes,” she said, adding that for most of the game, “we allowed Charlotte to come in and get nice and comfy.

“They set the tone from start to finish. We can’t allow that to happen on our home court. We didn’t rebound the ball as well as we usually do.”

After outrebounding North Texas, 50-29, this past weekend, ODU had 39 rebounds and Charlotte 38.

Charlotte’s superior shooting proved to be the difference. Led by Jett-Wilson’s 22 points, the 49ers made 45.3 percent of their shots.

ODU was 23 of 64 from the field (36 percent) and as has been the case much this season, shot poorly from beyond the 3-point arc, making 3 of 13 (23 percent).

Allen made clutch plays for ODU during the late rally but never got on track offensively, making just 6 of 24 shots. Adams led ODU with 14 and Allen and Jackson had 11 apiece.

The intensity of the rivalry was evident at game’s end as the 49ers walked to midcourt and began taunting ODU fans who had taunted Charlotte during the game.

Most of the ODU players watched from steps away.

The teams meet again Saturday at Charlotte in a 4 pm game that is almost a must-win contest if ODU is to remain in the East Division race.

It was the first ODU-Charlotte game for Jackson, a transfer from the University of Miami who attended Virginia Beach’s Princess Anne High School. When asked what she thought of the series, she replied: “I’m ready to play them tomorrow.”

ODU doesn’t play at home again until Monday, Feb. 7, when the Monarchs make up a postponed game with FIU.

ODU’s next three games are on the road. After playing at Charlotte, ODU travels to Marshall on Thursday and next Saturday to Western Kentucky, the C-USA East Division leader. The Feb. 7 game with FIU will be ODU’s third game in five days.

Milton-Jones said her team was inspired by the support from the crowd.

“I do appreciate the fact that the fans came out and supported us,” Milton-Jones said. “I heard them and I felt them.

“I just wished we had given them a better showing to them to entice them to come back.”

Game Notes
Charlotte became just the third team to shoot better than 45 percent against the Monarchs this season. The 49ers also matched an opponent single-game high with a .375 (6-of-16) mark from 3-point range.

ODU had 12 steals on Wednesday, its most in a game since Temple (18) on Dec. 22. Five Monarchs recorded multiple steals, led by a season-high three from Brianna Jackson.

Jackson added 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting, her fourth double-digit outing in the past eight games, five boards and one block.

Mariah Adams scored 11 for the second game in a row, going 2-of-5 from deep to match a season high in triples. Adams led the team with five assists and had two steals.

Amari Young fell one point shy of a double-double, breaking a streak of three-straight double-digit scoring games. Her 12 rebounds set the game high and matched her season high as well. Young is now 32nd in all-time scoring at ODU with 1,042 points.

Amhyia Moreland chipped in three points, four rebounds and a career-high two blocks.

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