NORFOLK, Va (ODU Athletics). – It was far too close for comfort. But desperately in need of a victory, the Old Dominion women’s basketball team rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit and defeated Florida Atlantic, 61-48, Monday evening.  

Ajah Wayne scored 12 of her 22 points in the final period, which was close until the final minutes.

The win was needed because it came after poor performance in a 53-48 loss at UTEP Saturday night, one that ended ODU’s nine-game winning streak.

ODU (12-3, 2-1 C-USA) played poorly again for much of the game against FAU. The Owls took an 11-0 lead in the first quarter and expanded it to 14-2. The Monarchs appeared disjointed, especially on defense, and often gave the Owls open jumpers.

ODU’s defense then tightened up after head coach DeLisha Milton-Jones called a timeout to tell her players to get it together. The Monarchs appeared to retake control of the game in the second quarter, outscoring the Owls 15-2 over the first 7 ½ minutes to take a 30-21 lead.

But FAU’s Sofia Galeron drilled a three-pointer in the final seconds to trim the lead to six at the half

Galeron made a jumper early in the third quarter to tie the score at 32-32, and Janeta Rozentale made a jumper from the top of the key minutes later to give FAU a 39-38 lead it carried into the fourth quarter.

Wayne then scored the first four points of a fourth quarter that she would dominate.

After Alexa Zaph made a driving layup to pull FAU within a point, 46-45, midway through the fourth quarter, the Monarchs finally gave themselves some breathing room with a 7-0 run, the final basket a Wayne jump shot with 3:01 left that gave ODU a 53-45 lead.

The Owls never got close again.

Amari Young came into the game one point short of 1,000 career points. “I knew I needed one point,” said the senior from North Augusta, South Carolina in joking fashion. She added 10 more points and six rebounds.

“To score 1,000 points is a significant achievement,” Milton-Jones said.

Wayne, a senior from Birmingham, Alabama, also broke the 1,000-point mark earlier this season. Although both are seniors, they have a year of eligibility remaining because of the pandemic.

“Weezy is the kind of player who can put our team on her back and will us to a victory,” Milton-Jones said, using Wayne’s nickname. “She was just a bull.”

Iggy Allen, the senior from Pompano Beach, Florida, struggled to make shots but scored 13 against the Owls, for whom she played last season. Milton-Jones said Allen was nervous playing against her former teammates and that she was pushing her shots.

“I expected it to look like this because when you’re playing your former team, there are all kinds of mixed emotions that you are having,” Milton-Jones said. “No matter how hard you try to focus and pretend it doesn’t matter, it matters.”

That the game was competitive was a major tribute to FAU, which was without three of its top seven scorers and had a nightmarish and tiring trip from Boca Raton, Florida to Norfolk. The flight carrying the Owls to Norfolk attempted to land Sunday night and pilots determined it wasn’t safe because of high winds.

The flight was diverted to Raleigh, where the Owls slept in the clothes they wore on the flight – their luggage did not make it to Raleigh.

They bused to Norfolk Monday morning, causing the game time to be delayed from 1:30 until 6:30.

FAU’s five starters, including two players who don’t usually start, all played at least 34 minutes. The Owls (4-11, 0-4) got no points and only 20 minutes of playing time from its four-women bench. It was the sixth loss in a row for FAU.

FAU kept it close with a zone defense and dared the Monarchs to beat them from outside. ODU took 25 more shots than FAU, but made just 23 of 71 (32.4 percent) and one of 19 three-pointers (5.3 percent).

“We’re going to see that zone every game, and people are going to bank on the fact that we’re not going to make shots,” Milton-Jones said. “The iron has just been unkind to us for whatever reason.

“But I want my players to remain confident. The three-point shot is something we’re not afraid to take.

“There’s going to come a time when we start hitting and people are really going to be in trouble.”

The game was the first at home for ODU in 36 days and during that time, the team often hasn’t been unable to practice because of COVID issues.

“The quarantine we had to go into, that broke our momentum,” Milton-Jones said. “We were on an eight-game winning streak. And then we just had to shut everything down.”

Young said that finally playing a home game after a month “felt so good. It was so great to play in front of our home fans again.”

The Monarchs host Rice on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and North Texas Saturday at 1 p.m. in the annual alumni game that will mark a reunion of the 1996-97 team, the last ODU team to go to a Final Four. Former coach Wendy Larry and ODU Hall of Fame members Ticha Penicheiro and Nyree Roberts will be among the players introduced at halftime of the North Texas game.

Game Notes
Amari Young scored 11 points – nine in the first half – and became the 35th member of the 1,000-point club at Old Dominion. Young now has 1,010 points and is 12 points behind Shae Kelley (2012-14) for 34th place on the all-time scoring list at ODU. Young also grabbed six rebounds, matched a season high with three assists and had three steals and a pair of blocks.

The Monarchs held an eight opponent under 50 points. ODU entered the day ranked first in Conference USA and sixth nationally in scoring defense (50.3). Additionally, the Owls became the fourth team to commit 30 or more turnovers in a game. Old Dominion is the conference leader and is top-15 in the nation in forced turnovers.

ODU held sizeable advantages in points off turnovers (28-12), points in the paint (34-16), second-chance points (17-5) and bench points (13-0).

Ajah Wayne scored a game-high 22 points – her third 20-point game of the season and the 14th of her career. She shot 8-of-16 from the field and was 6-of-6 from the foul line. She now has 1,155 points in her career.

Iggy Allen had her 16th career double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Allen also chipped in three steals, matching the game high.

Mariah Adams had five assists and three steals. That’s her seventh game this season with five or more assists and her seventh game with three-plus steals. Adams is averaging 5.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game over the last five games.

The Monarchs improve to 5-1 at home and have won their last three at home.