The University of Dayton women’s basketball team earned another tournament title at the ASU Classic from Saturday, Dec. 1 to Sunday, Dec. 2, to remain undefeated this season.
In the tournament’s title game on Sunday, Dayton came back from a 12-point halftime deficit to defeat tournament host Arizona State University 65-59.
Dayton trailed by nine with 8:18 remaining but held ASU without a field goal over the next 7:58 and used a 13-3 run to take the lead for good.
Sophomore forward Ally Malott led the team with 20 points, including 14 in the second half. Senior guard Samantha MacKay also chipped in 17 points, and sophomore guard Andrea Hoover had a double-double win 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“Their pressure was really bothering us,” head coach Jim Jabir said. “We were taking decent shots [in the first half] but couldn’t really run any offense.
“We knew they were a good team, and they imposed their will on us defensively. We just found a way to win.”
Dayton started the tournament with a convincing 82-58 win Saturday against University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
The win was all but decided by the end of the first half, as the nationally-ranked Flyers held a 42-19 lead at halftime.
“We’ve been getting a lot of good contributions from our players,” Jabir said Saturday night. “We were very dominating in the first half and that was helpful.”
He said that his team’s defensive performance was far better against UNLV than it was last Wednesday against Wright State University.
In that game, the Flyers failed to retain their 26-point halftime lead. With eight minutes to play, the lead had been cut to 10 points.
Unlike with Wednesday, Jabir said he was pleased with how his team handled the pressure.
“We needed to contain the ball [against Wright State] and didn’t,” he said. “We did a good job of that this game; we did a lot of things well this time … And a lot of players stepped up.”
One of them, MacKay, had a career night against the Rebels, going for 18 points, seven rebounds and six steals.
“I had a good night tonight because of what my teammates did,” she said. “It’s good to have a night like that help our team win.”
MacKay said that going into halftime, the team was extremely focused on using their coach’s adjustments on defense and continuing to contain players from UNLV.
The Flyers caused 18 UNLV turnovers Saturday, including 12 steals.
MacKay was followed in scoring Saturday by sophomore guard Andrea Hoover who finished with 14 points. Dayton shot 47 percent from the field, while holding UNLV to just 35 percent.
This season, UD is winning by an average margin of more than 21 points, their best mark in the Jabir era. Malott has also played a major role in the success, averaging a team-best 13.4 points per game. She finished with 13 against the Rebels.
Malott is one of four players who together account for 48 of the team’s 86 points per game. On the defensive end, however, turnovers have remained a problem throughout the season. They’ve allowed 17 turnovers per game, while only forcing 18 on defense.
The team has meshed well together according to both MacKay and her coach.
“We played with intensity,” MacKay said. “We followed through on both ends of the court.”
MacKay was named the tournament’s MVP. Malott and Hoover were named to the All-Classic team.
Despite a near upset on Arizona State’s home court, the Flyers won its third and final in-season tournament of the year. Six of Dayton’s first nine games this season came in tournaments.
“I just love being around our team,” Jabir said. “They’re great kids and we don’t have any egos on this squad. Right now, rankings don’t really mean that much to us.”
The newest top 25 polls, however, released Monday and Tuesday, offered another history-making moment for the program. The Flyers retaining its spot in the rankings for three consecutive weeks is a first as a Division I program.
Jabir is one of the 33 coaches nationwide who casts a vote in the USA TODAY/Coaches poll each week.
When asked whether his team would earn his vote Tuesday, he responded: “Yes, I think they’ve earned it. They’ve definitely earned it.”
Dayton next hosts Michigan State University on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 1 p.m.