By: Steven Miller – Staff Writer
After beginning the season ranked No. 22 in the nation, the Dayton women’s basketball team had a rough start, going 2-3 after a series of road games in the states of Washington and Iowa.
Dayton travelled to Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, Nov. 14 for their first matchup of the season. After dropping the game 76-60, they traveled to Spokane, Washington, falling to Gonzaga University.
The following weekend, the Flyers participated in the Hawkeye Challenge at the University of Iowa. Dayton defeated the University of Tennessee at Martin in their first matchup, and then fell to Iowa in a high-scoring affair, 90-83.
On Wednesday, the team won their first home game of the season in the team’s first regular season appearance at UD arena, defeating Providence College 72-56.
While it is easy to look at the slow start and doubt the Flyers’ talent, the team is not demoralized by the early struggles. Rather, they are gauging the team’s strategy and addressing certain weaknesses.
The preseason emphasis on a defensive strategy focused on pressing and trapping as reported in the Flyer News basketball preview, will likely shift gears as the team enters conference play.
Foremost, head coach Jim Jabir expressed that the aggressive defensive tactics he practiced for this season were not effective for his team.
“I thought we were going to be a trapping, pressing team and I found out after our Gonzaga game that we’re not that,” Jabir said. “We gave up so many open shots that if we had just played our straight defense, we probably would have won that game.”
Jabir concluded that he may try to institute a “run and jump” style, full-court defense. With regards to pressing, he said, “maybe we can come back to it, but we can’t do it the way we were doing it.”
Junior guard Andrea Hoover, the team’s leading scorer, also spoke of the defensive plan.
“We won’t take so many chances with trapping, but we’ll still be very aggressive,” Hoover said. “We’ll try to make people shoot over us because we’re a lanky team.”
After scoring 78 points in the victory over UT Martin, Dayton’s offense kicked into a high gear against Iowa with 83 points, but suffered from a defense that gave up 90 to the Hawkeyes.
UD found themselves up by 10 with fewer than 10 minutes remaining in the game before Iowa went on a scoring frenzy.
“We were trading baskets and we were working a lot harder for our baskets than they were,” Jabir said of the game. “They have five kids who can all score, and they’re difficult to defend,” he added. “And I’m not making excuses for ourselves, we were lousy defensively.”
Iowa was able to jump ahead and win by seven.
It was a hard-fought game but Hoover expressed her discontent over the defensive play.
“We played a great first half, but didn’t put the two halves together,” she said. “We just have to keep working and keep the ball in front of us,” Hoover said.
She emphasized focusing on “both ends of the game,” referring to the defensive inefficiency when the offense is clicking.
The Flyers are looking forward to conference play later on in the season and will have gained experience from playing such nationally-competitive teams they have faced so far.
Conference play opens Jan. 4 against George Washington University at home beginning UD’s slate of 16 league games.
The Flyers were unanimously chosen to win the league by league coaches in the annual preseason coach’s poll.
“I think the biggest thing is that we’re not afraid to play people, and that’s the best way for us to improve and get better,” Jabir said.
Jabir and the team haven’t shied away from playing a tough schedule in years past.
In the early part of last season, Dayton squared off against Iowa and a nationally ranked Michigan State team.
While learning about the team’s product on the court, Jabir also found an off-court adjustment he may need to make in the future. Jabir will likely approach travel plans differently.
“When we travel to the West Coast, we probably need to travel two days ahead and not one because we were really tired,” Jabir said.
Hoover referenced last season’s A-10 championship team when speaking of this season’s start.
“We kind of had a slow start last year as well, so there’s no need to press the panic button,” Hoover said.
Through five games a year ago, the Flyers were also 2-3 after playing a similarly tough, nationally ranked schedule to open the year before going 21-5 the rest of the season and claiming an A-10 championship.
Further, Jabir said the Iowa head coach spoke highly of UD following their game.
“She considered this win a signature win for her program,” Jabir said, “and she thought we’d be in the top 25 at the end of the year.”
“Playing four games on the road to start the season, against tough competition, some people say it’s stupid but I think there will be value in it in the end,” Jabir said.
The Flyers face Wright State University Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Wright State’s Nutter Center. The game will be televised on ESPN3.
Wright State enters the game with a perfect 4-0 record, coming off of a victory over Southern Illinois University Saturday.