The University of Dayton women’s basketball team will face a Big Ten opponent after reaching the highest ranking in program history against Michigan State University at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8, at UD Arena.
UD assistant coach Shauna Green said the Flyers will have to not only contain a tough scoring offense, but pull out all the stops on its own.
“They’ve only got eight players right now, but every one of them is talented,” Green said. “It’s a team with a lot of inside strength … but so are we.”
Dayton in this week’s Associated Press and USA TODAY/Coaches polls earned the program’s highest rankings at No. 19 and No. 18, respectively. Like the Flyers, MSU enters Saturday’s contest undefeated.
The only difference is Michigan State (7-0) hasn’t found itself in the Top 25 yet.
Green, in her first year as a UD assistant, added, “They’re not ranked [in the polls], but this is still a good team.”
MSU has shown its ability to defend this season as well. Earlier this year, MSU held Virginia Tech University to 29 points on Nov. 18, and has yet to give up more than 51 points in a game this year. However, according to RealtimeRPI.com, MSU’s strength of schedule ranking is No. 174 in the country while Dayton is No. 96.
Though Dayton has a relatively young team — nine of the 14 players are either freshmen or sophomores — senior guard Samantha MacKay said the team isn’t nervous.
“We played them at their place a few years ago and they beat us,” MacKay said, referring to Michigan State’s 74-62 win in East Lansing on Nov. 15, 2010. “They’re a Big Ten school. We know the kind of physical play they will bring.”
MacKay said that she went to Point Guard College, a training camp for male and female basketball players, with MSU’s second-leading scorer, senior guard Jasmine Thomas, who averages 13.3 points per game.
“I know how athletic she is,” she said. “And I know she’s a talented player.”
After watching the team’s film from the Arizona State University game, a 65-59 win on Sunday, Dec. 2, MacKay said that UD still has improvements to make.
“Our focus is cleaning up our defense and taking care of each individual spot on the court,” MacKay said. “Doing that will hopefully result in more success.”
The individual success that MacKay had last weekend played a large role in the Flyers winning the ASU Invitational championship. She was named Atlantic 10 player of the week on Monday, Dec. 3, making her the fourth UD women’s player in as many weeks to receive the honor.
Much like Dayton, MSU has four players averaging double figures in the scoring category. Klarissa Bell, a junior guard, leads the way with 15 points per game.
“They’re a really big team and really tough defensively,” sophomore forward Ally Malott said. “They’re holding opponents to a really low field goal percentage, so we will have to execute better.”
Malott is the leading scorer for the Flyers, averaging 14 points per game, as well as the leading rebounder with 7.6 rebounds. Playing against a defense that holds opponents to 41 points per game and under 30 percent from the field will be difficult, she said.
“When I got here, I knew I’d have to step up. We all did,” she said. “But that’s why we’re having a good year. We love being around each other and improving our game as a team and as individuals.”
The two schools opened their 2009-2010 seasons against each other at UD Arena on Nov. 13, 2009, which UD won 77-74 when MSU was ranked No. 10 in the country in the AP poll.
“We have to run our offense, get out on the ball and go after it,” Green said. “That’s what we do.”