Senior guard Jenna Giacone was 6-8 from the field Sunday, leading the Flyers with 16 points in the win over Rhode Island. Photo courtesy of Keegan Gupta.
Sports Staff Writer
The Dayton women’s basketball team built on their perfect record in Atlantic 10 play with a 71-60 victory over Rhode Island Sunday afternoon.
In their first and only match-up of the season, the Flyers (17-7, 10-0) beat the Rams (11-11, 4-6) to extend their winning streak to 12 games, a sharp turnaround from their 5-7 start. Dayton head coach Shauna Green said the biggest change during that winning streak has been confidence.
“When you see the ball go in a little bit and get a couple wins,” Green said. “And then that confidence comes, and with conference play, they’re veterans, so they know these teams so well. They’re so locked in, the focus right now with this team, they’ve been very professional in everything they do. We come in and we work.”
The first few minutes of the game were played at a quick pace, especially by the Flyers, who moved the ball quickly in transition. Rhode Island put the first points on the board with a put-back lay-up by senior center Nicole Jorgensen, who had 13 points and 5 rebounds on 5-8 shooting from the field.
Senior guard Jayla Scaife tied the game with a driving lay-up. A Rams turnover that was saved from going out of bounds off the Flyers by redshirt junior Erin Whalen gave redshirt junior guard Araion Bradshaw an open jumper to give the Flyers their first lead of the game with 7:25 remaining in the first quarter.
The Flyers had pushed their lead to 7-4 before a 3-pointer by Rams redshirt senior Davida Dale tied the score at 7 heading into the first media timeout at the 4:31 mark.
A couple of lay-ups by Flyers redshirt senior forward Julia Chandler and a jumper by senior Jenna Giacone led a 6-0 run by the Flyers to push the lead to 13-7 with 2:13 remaining in the first quarter. The Flyers moved quickly in transition and scored 20 fast break points compared to just six from Rhode Island.
“We love to play fast,” Giacone said. “We always talk about our pace and how fast we want it to be. And with our depth, being able to rotate, get subs in and out, you go in and play as hard as you possibly can, and you know that you have someone that can come in and do the exact same thing right behind you. It’s a rotation that we all love and speaks volumes to our depth.”
Scaife echoed the importance of the depth of the team and how it allows the team to keep running throughout the game.
“We have ’16 strong’ is what we say,” Scaife said. “We have 16 players, so just being able to push it on (our opponents), and if you get tired, get a sub and get back in. Pace is a big thing every game for us.”
A made jumper by Rhode Island cut the deficit to 13-9 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter consisted of more scoring than the first quarter as a result of the play by Jorgensen for the Rams and Bradshaw and Scaife for the Flyers. Jorgensen was difficult to stop in the first half, scoring 13 points and grabbing 5 rebounds.
Scaife and Jorgensen exchanged jumpers to start the quarter, Scaife adding one more before a Bradshaw jumper in transition pushed the Flyers lead to 19-11 with 7:54 remaining in the second quarter.
A coast-to-coast lay-up after a Flyers steal and a 3-pointer by Giacone after a Jorgensen basket, followed by a lay-up by sophomore forward Kyla Whitehead, stretched the Flyers lead to 26-14 heading into the second quarter media timeout at the 4:51 mark.
A series of free throws by the Rams – final 7 points of the half were from the line – cut the Flyers lead to eight as the collective play from the whole team – six players with at least 5 points – resulted in Dayton leading 31-23 at halftime.
To start the third quarter, the Flyers brought out a full court press on a couple of Rams possessions, but the added pressure opened up space early for the Rams, who cut the Flyers lead to just six after a Jorgensen jumper with 8:22 remaining in the third quarter.
After a quiet first half (1 point), Whalen found her groove in the third quarter, forcing her way to the line. Two made free throws pushed the Flyers lead to nine, and a jumper by freshman Mariah Perez and a 3-pointer by Bradshaw gave the Flyers a 44-30 lead with 5:41 remaining in the quarter.
Rhode Island responded with a free throw and 3-pointer to cut the deficit to ten at the third quarter media timeout at the 4:33 mark.
The Flyers quickly put an end to any semblance of a comeback with a couple of 3-pointers by Giacone – who finished with a team-high 16 points and shot 3-4 from 3-point range – and two free throws from redshirt senior guard Brittany Ward to inflate the lead to 18 with 2:05 remaining in the third quarter.
The Rams had cut the deficit to 15 before a Whalen 3-pointer with 9 seconds left in the quarter gave the Flyers a 57-39 at the end of three quarters.
The Flyers never relinquished control in the fourth quarter, as their smallest lead was 11 points with 39 seconds left in the game. Green said avoiding giving up a large lead has been an important part of their mentality this season and has improved because of their experience.
Even with a large advantage, the Flyers’ drive to win was never dampened and was exemplified on a true effort play by Bradshaw on a steal.
On a Rams pass shortly before the final media timeout from near half-court toward the corner, Bradshaw read where the pass was going and reached out her hand, knocking the ball toward the sideline. She dove for the ball to keep it in-bounds and fell right into the Rhode Island bench.
“(Bradshaw) is a little bulldog out there,” Green said. “She plays her butt off, she plays as hard as she can every possession. She usually defends the best player and she has the ball in her hand all the time and now she’s starting to score some. With 10 points tonight plus the defensive effort she had on their point guard, she just does everything for us and she’s really growing and getting better.”
The Flyers went into the media timeout leading 65-47 with 4:49 remaining and although the Rams cut the deficit to 11, it was too late as the Flyers came away with a 71-60 win.
The Flyers improve to 17-7 (10-0 in A-10 play), while the Rams fall to 11-11 (4-6). The Flyers’ next game will be away against Massachusetts on Wednesday before their Senior Day game against VCU next Sunday.