FRISCO, Texas — Plagued with injuries and reduced to just six available players, Florida Atlantic was outmanned and proved to be no match for the Old Dominion women's basketball team on Wednesday.
ODU cranked up its fast break early in the second quarter and held the Owls scoreless for nearly nine minutes during one stretch in a 60-32 victory in the first round of the Conference USA tournament at the Ford Center at The Star.
ODU (21-9) takes on No. 4 seed Western Kentucky (17-13) Thursday at 12:30 (ESPN+) in a game that would give the Monarchs a chance to exorcise memories of difficult losses.
WKU has won nine in a row over ODU since the Monarchs joined C-USA in 2013, including a 75-60 loss in Bowling Green earlier this season. Four of the last five games with WKU have been relatively close, including an overtime defeat three years ago.
FAU (5-25) was without four of its best players, including it's top three scorers, and it showed. ODU's best previous defensive effort this season was holding UTSA to 47 points.
Old Dominion got off to a slow start, and trailed FAU, 7-2, early on, but quickly took the lead and quickly turned it into a rout. ODU led 24-16 after a foul shot by FAU's Jamaria Williams. But Dejah Carter made consecutive layups, follow by layups from Taylor Edwards, Mariah Adams and Maggie Robinson that gave ODU a 34-16 halftime lead and control of the game.
Victoria Morris played for the first time since Feb 2 and made her first shot -- a 3-pointer -- and finished with 5 points in eight minutes. ODU outrebounded the Owls, 63-30.
ODU coach Nikki McCray-Penson emptied her bench early on in an effort not to run up the score. An added benefit is that some of her starters might have fresher legs for the rest of the tournament. No Monarch played more than 25 minutes.
"That's right where we want to be," she said. "If you can keep it to about 25 minutes, then helps keep you fresh."
ODU must win four games in four days to win the tournament. With that in mind, McCray decided to forego the usual shoot-around practice Wednesday morning to allow her players to sleep in. Instead, the ODU men and women shared the court late Tuesday night for light workouts.
McCray says she looks forward to the challenge her team faces in a very difficult bracket. If ODU upsets WKU, the Monarchs face league champion Rice in the semifinals.
"For us, it's a new season," McCray said. "They're a new team. Both teams have changed a lot since we last played.
"Taylor had five minutes i that game, so I know that sticks in her memory," McCray said nodding toward Taylor Edwards, ODU's leading scorer, who got into quick foul trouble.
"We'll press and be able to rock and roll. Western can score from a lot of different levels, so it will be quite a challenge."
Rice managed to hold off ODU, 48-42, on Feb. 2 in Houston, when the Monarchs had a chance to tie the game with under a minute left.
Morris, Edwards and Carter are the only three players for ODU who played in last season's C-USA tournament in Frisco. For nine newcomers, it was their first taste of action in the indoor stadium that the Dallas Cowboys use as a workout facility.
"But we got out feet under us and got a win," McCray said. "That was a good first step."