The University of Dayton women’s basketball team will hit the road once again this weekend for its third non-conference tournament of the season, this time at the ASU Classic at the Wells-Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz.
The tournament features four teams with the Flyers beginning the tournament against the University of Nevada Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 1, at 8 p.m. The day’s other game will have tournament host Arizona State University square off against Binghamton University at 4 p.m. The winners and losers will then face off against each other in the second games on Sunday, Dec. 2, at either 3 p.m. or 5:30 p.m.
The UNLV Lady Rebels enter the game with a 2-4 record on the season, and this is also their third non-conference tournament of the season. This will mark the first time UD has faced off against UNLV in women’s basketball.
UNLV is led by the one-two punch of senior guard Kelli Thompson and sophomore forward Alana Cesarz. The duo by far leads the team in scoring average, with 18.2 and 17 points per game this season, respectively. They also lead the team in minutes played, as well as numerous other scoring and defensive categories.
According to UD freshman guard Amber Deane, the Flyers must execute to beat the talented Lady Rebels squad.
“They’re a very talented team,” Deane said. “They’re skilled and they run plays well. We just need to go in with confidence, attack their vulnerabilities, not be hesitant and take advantage of any opportunities they give us.”
As for the other two teams in the tournament, ASU currently sits at 2-3 on the season, and Binghamton is currently winless at 0-6. The Sun Devils tend to spread the ball evenly, but are led statistically by junior forward/center Joy Burke. As for the Bearcats, they are led by sophomore forward Sherae Swinson, who is averaging 10.2 points per game on the season.
Dayton head coach Jim Jabir said he is excited by the potential teams they can face in the tournament.
“I think it’s going to be a great challenge for us,” Jabir said. “I think UNLV is a very good team and we play them first, and if we’re fortunate enough to beat them, then you have ASU on their home court. I think it’s going to be a great challenge for us to step up and play consistently against two very good teams over a weekend.”
This season, the Flyers have gotten off to a hot start, as the team is currently undefeated, including a win over the then-No. 13 ranked Vanderbilt University Commodores. UD is now also ranked in the AP poll, coming in at No. 23 on Monday, Nov. 26.
Most recently, UD defeated Wright State University 95-73 on Wednesday, Nov. 28, at the Nutter Center to move to 7-0, the best start for the program since it became a Division I school in 1983-84.
UD’s individual players have also been picking up recognition, as for three straight weeks members of the team have earned awards. Deane was the first Atlantic-10 Rookie of the Week of the season, followed up by sophomore forward Ally Mallot, who won the A-10’s Player of the Week award and now freshman center Jodie Cornelie-Sigmundova was the most recent Rookie of the Week in the A-10.
According to Deane, she says that the team’s success has stemmed from how close the players have been thus far, and thinks this will carry over to the tournament.
“Our team chemistry is through roof,” Deane said. “So I know we are going to have fun, and have good time at the tournament.”
However, despite all of the accolades for the Flyers, Jabir says that he just wants the team to focus, and not too overconfident for the tournament.
“Our main motivation has been getting better every single day, every game every practice just to keep improving,” Jabir said. “I want this year to be about our own improvement. I don’t want there to be a lot of pressure to maintain a winning streak or the rankings and all that stuff, I don’t care about any of that stuff. What I care about is working as hard as we can today and getting better today.”