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Mace & Crown

Providing Student News to Old Dominion University Since 1930

Mace & Crown

Providing Student News to Old Dominion University Since 1930

Mace & Crown

An Indomitable Reign Continues in ODU Women’s Basketball

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Courtesy of ODU Athletics
Lady Monarchs huddle up before their contest against William & Mary.

After falling to James Madison in the Sun Belt Conference tournament semifinals in March, the ODU’s women’s basketball program set out on the road to building a new team surrounding their core players. This growing powerhouse has improved year by year under head coach DeLisha Milton-Jones since she took over in 2020. As Milton-Jones heads into her fourth season, there was no question for the Director of Athletics, Dr. Wood Selig, to extend the contract of Milton-Jones through the 2027-28 season.

Dr. Selig praised Milton-Jones, stating that she is a phenomenal leader of young women and an exceptional role model. He believes that Milton-Jones’ experience as a champion at every level —college, pro, and the Olympics — makes her the perfect fit to lead the ODU women’s basketball program.

In Milton-Jones’ three seasons at Old Dominion, the Lady Monarchs have achieved an impressive overall record of 59-33 (.641), with a 31-21 (.596) mark in league play. Under her leadership, the team reached the conference tournament semifinals twice (Conference USA in 2021 and Sun Belt in 2023) and made it to the second round of the Women’s NIT in 2022. Milton-Jones has not only secured her position at the helm through the extension of her contract but has also established a legacy that goes beyond just win-loss records.

Old Dominion has had a fantastic start to the 2023-24 season, winning all eight of the games they’ve played so far. They are determined to maintain their winning streak throughout the regular season and surpass their previous postseason achievements. Their ultimate goal is to compete for the Sun Belt Championship and potentially secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The future looks bright for this talented team.

Before the start of the regular season, the Sun Belt Conference Preseason Coaches Poll for this year, in which the league’s 14 head coaches cast their votes, was released in mid-October. Old Dominion was picked to finish fourth in the conference. When asked about the poll results, Milton-Jones simply put it as “motivation” for her and the team.

Senior guard Jordan McLaughlin goes up for a layup in matchup against Texas State. (Courtesy of ODU Athletics)

Heading into the 2023 season, the Lady Monarchs had five players returning from last year’s squad that finished 22-12 overall and 12-6 against Sun Belt opponents. Graduate guard Kaye Clark and senior guard Jordan McLaughlin are the two starters back for ODU. Others who have returned include senior guard Joy Campbell, sophomore center Mikayla Brown, and junior forward Brenda Fontana. 

The team has ten newcomers for 2023-24 that include guards La’Dajah Huguley, Halima Salat, Mimi McCollister, and En’Dya Buford; guards/forwards Simone Cunningham and Ivi Nikolova; forwards De’Shawnti Thomas, Nnenna Orji, and Lanetta Williams; and forward/center Jenny Nkem Womsi.

The Lady Monarchs began their 2023 season at home with a game against Lincoln (PA). Buford, one of the newcomers on the team, played impressively in the home opener, scoring 14 points and adding six assists and two steals. Old Dominion won the game 72-50.

In their next game, Old Dominion faced Buffalo as part of the opening round of the new MAC-Sun Belt Challenge. Although ODU held the lead for over 37 minutes and led by as many as 15 points, Buffalo fought back to within three points midway through the fourth quarter. However, with some late defensive stops and consistent shooting at the free-throw line, Old Dominion secured a 59-48 victory.

Old Dominion then faced Xavier at home, whom they lost to 65-49 the previous year. Despite shooting poorly, the Lady Monarchs utilized their superior depth and a swarming defense to wear down Xavier and claim a 55-43 victory. Buford led ODU with 12 points, while Makayla Brown had 11 points and seven rebounds.

In their next game, Old Dominion played Texas Southern in a morning Education Day contest with over 2,500 Norfolk Public School students in attendance. Old Dominion won the game 57-38, with Budford leading the team with 10 points, five rebounds, and four steals. Fontana and McCollister followed with eight points each, while Cunningham and Clark had seven points each.

This win marked the fourth win in a row for Old Dominion, which is the first time they have started a season 4-0 since 2012-13.

In their next game, ODU faced Elon, a team they lost to in the 2022-23 season after giving up a ten-point lead in the second half. However, this season was different. Although they were leading by just two points after the first quarter, ODU outscored Elon 37-9 in the second and third quarters, securing a 60-29 victory thanks to efforts from veteran guard Clark, who led ODU with 15 points and was the only Monarch in double figures. 

With their record now at 5-0, they traveled to Williamsburg, Virginia to play against William & Mary. The game was competitive throughout, but it came down to the wire. Tied at 68-68 with just under three minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Old Dominion women’s basketball team used a 6-for-7 effort at the free-throw line to close out a 72-66 road win over William & Mary.

McLaughlin started the late charge by capitalizing on an and-one opportunity, putting ODU ahead 67-64 with 35 seconds remaining in the game. After Clark grabbed the rebound on a missed three-pointer by the Tribe, Buford earned a trip to the line with 16 seconds to go and converted both of her attempts. W&M made a jumper to trim the ODU lead to 69-66.

Buford then got to the line again with 12 seconds on the clock. She made her first shot and missed her second, but McLaughlin chased down the rebound and was fouled. Both of her free-throw attempts found the mark, and ODU went on to win.

(L-R) Junior Mimi McCollister, seniors Jordan McLaughlin and En’Dya Buford come together to discuss a game plan. (Courtesy of ODU Athletics)

After a hard-fought win in Williamsburg, the Lady Monarchs returned home and earned a 55-42 statement victory over a tough Florida Gulf Coast team. The undefeated Old Dominion women’s basketball team improved their record to 7-0, marking the program’s best start since the 1997-98 season. 

Old Dominion has a busy schedule ahead of them, with two non-conference matchups left and a long road through league play. Their next game will be against VCU in Richmond, Virginia, followed by a huge matchup against the fifth-ranked team in the country, NC State, which could be a game between unbeaten programs. 

After that, ODU begins conference play on the road at South Alabama, followed by two home games at Chartway Arena against Louisiana and Southern Mississippi. In January, the Lady Monarchs will be on the road for a four-game trip, starting in South Carolina at Coastal Carolina University, then traveling to Georgia to face Georgia Southern. They’ll then take the road up north to West Virginia to face off with Marshall before making the trip down to Harrisonburg, Virginia to compete in the ‘Royal Rivalry’ against in-state foe James Madison. 

In the latter part of January, the Lady Monarchs will host a pair of Sun Belt games against App. State and Georgia State. ODU will then travel to Texas and Arkansas to meet Texas State and Arkansas State in Sun Belt contests.

Returning home, Old Dominion will play against the University of Troy before playing the second game of the MAC-Sun Belt Challenge with a MAC opponent yet to be determined. The Lady Monarchs’ next two games are back in Norfolk as Marshall and Coastal Carolina are in town. 

From there, Old Dominion will embark on their last road trip of the season that begins in North Carolina at App. State and concludes in Georgia at Georgia State University. In the latter part of February, Old Dominion will play their final two games of the regular season at home with Georgia State on Feb. 27 and the second iteration of the ‘Royal Rivalry’ in the home finale.

As the regular season progresses, the ultimate goal for the Old Dominion University basketball team is to win the Sun Belt Conference and secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. This is something the program hasn’t achieved in a long time. The last time ODU won a conference tournament championship was in 2008 when they were part of the Colonial Athletic Association. The last time they made it to the NCAA Tournament was also in 2008.

Despite the long road ahead, the team has high expectations and believes they can achieve great success. This is a team that can make a significant impact. Regardless of the outcome for the rest of the 2023-24 season, this Old Dominion team has already made a lasting impression.

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About the Contributor
Benjamin Draper, Sports Editor
Benjamin serves as the Sports Editor for Mace and Crown. He is a junior who majors in Communications, more specifically ‘Media Studies’ along with a minor in Sports Management. He is very excited for the opportunity of leading the sports staff at the Mace & Crown. Since he was 4 years old, Benjamin has wanted to pursue a career in sports media as a Broadcaster/Reporter. On the side, he does broadcasting/production for the ODU Esports program and is Sports Director for WODU Studios. After college, Benjamin hopes to land an opportunity in a sports media role at the professional level whether its a media outlet or sports franchise. You can reach him at [email protected]

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