Herd women top Old Dominion
HUNTINGTON - Through the course of non-conference play, there was one consistent variable in which Marshall women’s basketball head coach Tony Kemper wanted to see improvement.
Kemper wanted to see his team do the little things to finish basketball games.The second-year head coach saw his team take its biggest lesson to the court in its biggest game to date Thursday night. Marshall’s defense brought consistent effort for 40 minutes, limiting Old Dominion to 31 percent shooting while forcing 23 turnovers in a 57-48 win over the Monarchs in front of 698 fans at Cam Henderson Center in the Conference USA opener.
“I thought we played really well together as a team,” Kemper said. “I thought I saw much more of that, as far as the grit and togetherness it takes to have some good things happen and stay centered, have some bad things happen and level off. I thought we saw that much more consistently tonight. That’s a great win and a great way to start.”
For Marshall (7-7, 1-0 C-USA), it was the play of the veterans who had been through the rigors of conference play before who stood out. Senior Shayna Gore led Marshall with 14 points while junior Khadaijia Brooks added 12. Taylor Porter chipped in 11. All three of those players were crucial on the defensive end as well with Gore adding four steals, Porter three and Brooks two, along with three blocked shots.
“That’s what we tried to focus on tonight, the little things,” Porter said. “That ended up as what got it done, honestly.”
While those players made big contributions, the play of reserve guard Tana Driver was equally as important down the stretch. Driver saw her first action in the fourth quarter as Old Dominion brought a pressure defense at Marshall in an attempt to claw back from a double-digit deficit. Old Dominion (9-4, 0-1 C-USA) chipped away at the lead, cutting it to six points, but Driver made a pair of huge defensive plays in the final two minutes that kept the Monarchs from getting closer.
With 1:46 left, Driver executed her help-side defense, sliding into position for a charge on ODU’s Aziah Hudson to eliminate a key possession. Then, with 55 seconds left and Marshall up seven, Driver beat ODU’s Taylor Edwards to a spot she was looking to drive and forced Edwards into a traveling violation that gave the Monarchs their 23rd turnover of the game and sealed the Thundering Herd’s win.
“That charge was huge,” Kemper said. “I mean, that was a huge play. She did a nice job of being pretty steady on the offensive end, too.”
Marshall led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter using a pesky zone defense that frustrated the Monarchs throughout the contest.
Coming in, balanced offense was what led ODU to a 9-3 record in non-conference play, but the Herd was able to shut down all driving lanes while closing out on shooters to limit the Monarchs’ offensive looks.
“I thought we were really gritty tonight,” Kemper said. “That’s something that, quite frankly, we hadn’t probably put together for 40 minutes.”
The tone was set early on as Marshall’s defense, which played without center Ashley Saintigene due to injury, used active hands and good communication within its matchup zone to force the Monarchs into turnovers.
Marshall took a 27-13 lead into the locker room after keeping Old Dominion scoreless the final 5:55 of the first half, during which ODU scored just five field goals and accrued more turnovers (15) than points (13).
Ajah Wayne led the Monarchs with 14 points and eight rebounds while Hudson added 11. The Herd defense limited ODU’s Taylor Edwards to eight points and eight rebounds while forcing her into eight turnovers.
Marshall looks to complete the weekend sweep to open Conference USA action when Charlotte visits Cam Henderson Center at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The 49ers come into Huntington after a 76-58 loss to WKU on Thursday night.