The AU women’s basketball team saw its comeback attempt fall short, as the Old Dominion University Lady Monarchs defeated the Eagles 63-55 in the first round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament on Wednesday.
Forward Tia Lewis led the Lady Monarchs with 16 points and nine rebounds, while guard Jasmine Parker added 14 points. Michelle Kirk paced the Eagles with 21 points, while Lisa Strack chipped in 17, which matches her career high.
AU came out of halftime trailing by 11, but kept fighting in the second half and cut the Old Dominion lead to six on three separate occasions. In the end, the Monarchs were too strong inside, as they scored 44 of their 63 points in the paint.
“After a slow start, I was pleased with the way we came out and competed in the second half,” AU Head Coach Matt Corkery told AU athletics. “In the end, ODU’s points in the paint were too much for us to overcome.”
The Monarchs grabbed a 10-4 lead five minutes into the game after a layup by Shadasia Green and a jumper by Lewis. Old Dominion took an 18-9 lead after Mairi Buchan converted a conventional three-point play.
AU came storming back, as the Eagles scored the next eight points to cut the lead to one. A Raven Harris jumper sandwiched between two Kirk triples made it 18-17 Monarchs.
Over the next seven minutes, Old Dominion outscored AU 15-2 to take a 14-point lead, late in the first half. Over that stretch, AU missed six shots from the field and committed five turnovers.
Lewis netted six of her 16 points during the 15-2 spurt, which saw the Old Dominion lead expand to 33-19. AU scored five of the next seven points, as the Monarchs held a 35-24 halftime advantage.
A three-point play by Kirk and a triple by Strack early in the second half saw the Old Dominion lead shrink to 37-30. With the Monarchs leading 39-31 with 17:59 remaining in the second half, the two teams traded baskets for the next seven minutes.
Old Dominion continued to hold its eight-point lead until two Kirk free throws pulled AU to within six. After a Parker three-pointer put the Monarchs up 50-41 with 7:30 remaining, Strack answered with a three to again cut the deficit to six.
The Eagles trailed 54-47 with 4:24 left in the second half and were unable to mount a comeback the stretch. AU did not record a point until two Strack free throws with less than a minute remaining, but by that time ODU had already locked up the victory. The Lady Monarchs hit their free throws late and came away with the 63-55 victory.
The win improves Old Dominion to 19-13 and advances them to the second round of the WNIT. The loss puts AU’s final record at 22-10. The 22 victories are the second-most victories in a season in school history.
AU will have high expectations for next year’s team, as they will return both Kirk and Liz Leer, two players who were first-team all-Patriot League selections this season. Seven of the eight players who played in Wednesday’s contest will return, with the only exception being Ohemaa Nyanin.