NORFOLK, Va. — Ajah Wayne and Iggy Allen squared off last season as the scoring and inspirational leaders on different Conference USA teams. Sunday afternoon, they showed just what a combustible combination they can be playing on the same side.
Allen had 21 points and 15 rebounds, and Wayne added 19 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Old Dominion women's basketball team to a 57-44 victory over Auburn at Chartway Arena in the annual Anne Donovan Classic.
Allen transferred from Florida Atlantic, where she was an all-league choice, while Wayne led an undermanned ODU team to three wins in three days in the league tournament. They had physical and at times contentious battles on the court as rivals.
As teammates, they combined to score 19 of ODU's 22 third quarter points, when the Monarchs turned a 2-point Auburn lead into a 12-point advantage. At the end of the quarter, they had scored 35 of ODU's 45 points.
The victory was ODU's 18th in 41 games against Power 5 teams at Chartway Arena. And although Auburn only won five games last season, ODU coach DeLisha Milton-Jones called it a "statement win."
"Anytime you have someone you consider a mid-major, and I consider us a high mid-major, and you beat a Power 5 team, that's newsworthy," said Milton-Jones, whose Monarchs are 2-0.
"It's easy for people to overlook the work of the players and coaches at this level and pay attention to the big dogs. But when you look at the first week of the season, a lot of Power 5's got knocked in the mouth.
"I only call it a statement win only because that's what people think of it. For us, it's just another good win because we're that good."
Auburn (0-2) lost at home to Georgia Southern 68-66 last week. ODU will join Georgia Southern in the next year or two in the Sun Belt Conference.
Milton-Jones said that when she saw Allen in the transfer portal, she asked Wayne her opinion. She knew Wayne needed to buy in on the idea before she reached out to Allen.
"I saw this happening when I was recruiting Iggy," Milton-Jones said. "I envisioned two people who probably didn't know each other, probably couldn't stand each other because they had to play against each other. Weezy (Wayne's nickname) said she was cool with it, and I was glad she did.
"These two should be everything when it comes to All-Conference USA. They were the reason why we turned this game around.
"When you see the magic the two of them can make, like the match and the lighter fluid, they're going to be fire, with the way that they play so competitively, the way they play things through."
Wayne said they made an instant connection. "We're able to play off of each other," Wayne said. "She's like my big sister."
Allen said playing together, they help make ODU into a "wild-card team. You never know what you're going to get from us, and I mean that in a good way.
"We're always going to punch hard."
Milton-Jones said she told Wayne during her first conversation about Allen "that you two could really be trouble, scary trouble for our opponents.
"I said you two have so much in common, you don't even understand it. Now that they're playing with each other, it's a beautiful thing to watch."
ODU has committed to annually recognize either a game or a tournament in honor of Donovan, the former ODU All-American who passed away in 2018. She is enshrined in both the Naismith and Women's Basketball halls of fame.
ODU's defense impressed four family members and friends of Anne Donovan who attended Sunday's game. Sisters Michele DiPiano and Patrice Donovan O'Connell and family friends Peg Wilfong and Kim Smitas all drove down from New Jersey Sunday and plan to tour the ODU campus on Monday.
"ODU's defense was awesome, and that was always really important to Anne," Donovan said. "In the second half, they just kept coming."
DiPiano said that "it's important for our family that Anne is being remembered. We're so happy that she is remembered here.
O'Donnell said they are looking forward to spending time at the place where Anne Donovan went to college. "ODU was so important to Anne," she said. "It was the place that formed her as a person and a player. "It just feels good that she's being acknowledged and that her legacy is continuing for all the athletes here, for all of the people here."