NORFOLK, Va. (Harry Minium, ODUSports.com) – It wasn't easy and at times it sure wasn't pretty.
But led by a spectacular offensive outburst from senior Iggy Allen, and a career-high scoring night from Brianna Jackson, the Old Dominion women's basketball team held off Rice, 69-59, Thursday at Chartway Arena.
It was the tenth victory in the last 11 games for ODU (13-3, 3-1 Conference USA), which continues to win in spite of the lingering effects of a late December and early January layoff because of COVID.
Allen was coming off a disappointing performance on Monday against Florida Atlantic, and coach DeLisha Milton-Jones said that was in large part because she was playing against her former teammates.
Allen transferred to ODU from FAU over the summer.
"You go through a lot of emotion in that kind of a situation," Milton-Jones said.
Allen's nerves continued through the first half against Rice, as she missed eight of her first nine shots.
But she exploded for 17 points in the final quarter and finished with 20 points and led all rebounders with 13.
"At the start of the game, I thought she was kind of rushing," said Ajah Wayne, who had 16 points and eight rebounds.
"Coach was like, 'calm down Iggy.' And she did in the second half."
When she got hot, there was little Rice could do to slow her down. Wayne said she played so well "that it was a little scary."
"She was scoring back-to-back. A player like her, she can get whatever she wants when she calms down and takes her time.
"Tonight, I saw the biggest growth in Iggy this season. She carried us through the second half."
A 6-foot-3 forward who starred at Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach, Jackson started her second game in a row, but played far better than she did in Monday's victory over FAU, in which she was scoreless.
She was an imposing defensive presence in the lane, and scored 15 points and had seven rebounds in nearly 25 minutes.
"When BJ is ready and patient, nobody can stop her," Wayne said. "It's a joy having a post player who can produce like that. We need more of that."
Things did not start well for ODU for the second game in a row. FAU bolted to an 11-0 lead against ODU before the Monarchs rallied. Rice (5-8, 0-4) got out to an 8-0 lead.
Rice has not won a game since Dec. 16, although because of COVID, the Owls have only played four games since.
And the Owls were shorthanded. Rice lost starter Trinity Gooden to an ankle injury in the game's opening minutes and had three other players who did not suit up, including Katelyn Crosthwait, Rice's top scorer and the only returning starter from last season.
Nonetheless, the Owls competed hard and played well.
The Owls took an 11-point lead, 23-12, early in the second quarter on a three-pointer from Arianna Bellamy and led 31-28 at the half. Rice knotted the score, 40-40, in the final seconds of the third quarter when, while falling to the ground, Bellamy pushed a shot up that bounced around the rim and fell in.
The fourth quarter, however, belonged to Allen.
Allen drilled a long jump shot seconds into the fourth period to give ODU a 44-41 lead, and would score on four of ODU's next six possessions, including a steal and a layup that gave ODU a 55-51 lead.
ODU led 61-57 with 2:45 left when Allen came off a crossover dribble and swished a jump shot from just inside the three-point arc. Her move left a defender flat footed.
Amari Young, who had 10 points, rebounded a missed shot and put it back in 40 seconds later and gave ODU an eight-point lead, that put the game out of reach.
Milton-Jones was calm throughout a first half in which her team didn't play with the kind of intensity she would have liked.
"Our players are students, they travel and they have practice," said Milton-Jones, whose team was in Texas last week.
"We moved this game up three hours because of the weather forecast. There's a lot going on that can affect the mental psyche of our players.
"I have to understand that these things may show up in the worst moment. It's a matter of me remaining calm and trying to talk our players through these situations.
"We settled down and really played well. This was a good victory."
ODU is scheduled to host North Texas, weather permitting, Saturday at 3 p.m. Admission to the game is free.
A scheduled reunion Saturday of the 1996-97 ODU women's team that finished second in the NCAA Tournament has been postponed because snow is predicted for Friday and parts of Saturday. Led by All-American Ticha Penicheiro, that team finished 34-2 and lost to Tennessee in the national championship game.
It is hoped that a reunion can be rescheduled for later this season.
Old Dominion matches its win total from a season ago, doing so in seven fewer games. At 13-3, the Monarchs have matched the 2007-08 and 2019-20 teams for the best 16-game start to a season since the turn of the century.
ODU found an offensive rhythm late, shooting .688 (11-for-16) from the field in the fourth quarter. For the game, the Monarchs made 41.5 percent of their shot attempts – their first game shooting above 40 percent since a 54.7-percent effort at Appalachian State on Dec. 18.
Old Dominion scored 22 seconds into that fourth quarter to break a 40-all deadlock and led the rest of the way. The Monarchs held a lead for the final 9:38 of the game. Prior to that, ODU had been in front for only 3:16, all of which occurred in the third quarter. Old Dominion did not have a lead in the game until the 4:03 mark of the third quarter.
The Monarchs scored 29 points in the fourth – their most fourth quarter points this season. ODU managed just 28 points in the entire first half.
Iggy Allen had 17 of her game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter on 6-of-8 shooting. Allen finished with 20-plus points for the fourth time this season and the 16th time in her career. She also had a game-high 13 rebounds for her sixth double-double this season. Allen is tied for the second-most double-doubles in Conference USA. Allen is now averaging a double-double (15.3 points, 10.0 rebounds) in conference play.
Brianna Jackson set a new personal best with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting with seven rebounds and two blocks.
Ajah Wayne shot 50 percent from the floor and finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. She now has 1,171 career points for ODU.
Old Dominion outrebounded Rice 37-29, including a 17-5 margin on the offensive glass.
The Monarchs committed just nine turnovers, their fewest since the Saint Joseph's game on Nov. 26.
Joy Campbell notched a season high with three assists.