By: Chris Bendel – Asst. Sports Editor
After a 10-day layoff, the University of Dayton women’s basketball team is eager to erase the sour taste left from a 30-point loss in its last game.
UD heads into its matchup against the University of Central Michigan Thursday, Dec. 5, after an 82-52 loss to Vanderbilt University Nov. 24, in Nashville, Tenn.
“The Vanderbilt loss was tough to take,” junior forward Ally Malott said. “In a certain sense, it kind of opened our eyes to how far we still need to come this season and what we need to work on in practice.”
UD’s loss at Vanderbilt dropped the team out of the national rankings completely and its record fell to 2-3 after beginning the season ranked No. 14 in the preseason AP top 25 poll.
“If you’re going be a championship caliber team, you have to play at a certain level. We don’t right now,” head coach Jim Jabir said.
When the AP released its preseason rankings, Jabir said he placed no weight on his team’s place in the national poll and focused on taking care of business within the program.
Jabir’s mindset hasn’t changed, even if his team has briefly slipped out of the national spotlight. He said he just wishes to see improvement and only five games into the season, there is ample time for it.
“I felt sincerely that all those rankings were nice, but they were premature,” Jabir said. “I didn’t put a whole lot of stock in them when they came out…We’re in the same mindset now. We just have to improve.”
Dayton’s fast-paced system has produced a scoring offense that ranks 19th in the country so far this season at 83.4 points per game. Five players average double figures for the Flyers with junior guard Andrea Hoover and junior forward
Cassie Sant tied for the team lead at 15.8 points per game.
“We all have the ability to score,” Malott said. “I think we’re a talented team all-around. It’s just a matter of putting that talent together and working hard in practice.”
However, UD has struggled. In the team’s three losses, Dayton surrendered 97, 96 and 82 points, respectively.
“We’ve had a very difficult time defending people and making a real difference on the defensive end… We lack a certain intensity and work-ethic at times,” Jabir said.
As of Monday, Dec. 2, UD had allowed a 81.8 points per game, which ranks 333th in the country. NCAA statistics only list 343 teams in all of Division-I basketball.
Malott said defensively the team lacks consistency, citing the Vanderbilt loss as a learning opportunity. They must learn to finish defensive sequences, she said, citing long stretched possessions in the Vanderbilt game where they allowed a score with time running out on the shot clock.
Stemming from the emphasis on hand-check calls, the team has also faced foul trouble, forcing Jabir to rely in part on an inexperienced bench, even in late-game situations. Hoover fouled out of the 97-93 Michigan State loss before it entered overtime, forcing UD to play without one of the team’s top playmakers for the extra period .
Jabir said he looks for more production from his bench as the team prepares to enter Atlantic 10 Conference play early next month.
“We have to get the young kids better and that just comes with experience,” Jabir said.
With a question mark entering this year’s campaign, UD still has yet to find steady play from its rotation of point
guards, he said.
“Our point guard play has to improve,” Jabir said. “We have to expect more from our point guards. They need to see the floor better and understand situations.”
UD’s rotation of point guards have a combined assist to turnover rate of 1.01 with a team value of .628.
Last year, starting point guard Sam McKay produced an A/TO ratio of 1.76 in helping the team to produce a rate of 1.03 assists per turnover.
The team’s injury situation only amplifies the challenges the team has faced on the court up to this point of the season.
In the team’s most recent injury listing, every player on the roster had something on the report which is unheard of and a little scary, Jabir said.
While the team has faced adversity, Jabir still holds his team to a standard of excellence needed to produce a championship ball club come March.
“Losing stinks…I hate it,” Jabir said.