The Flyers’ women’s basketball team celebrates from the bench during last Friday’s exhibition win over IUP. Photo courtesy of Keegan Gupta, Flyer News.
Peter Burtnett | Sports Editor
Dayton Flyers women’s basketball head coach Shauna Green said the Flyers “got to be better” after a season-opening 73-52 win over Alabama A&M Tuesday at UD Arena.
“I’m not telling you guys anything that you don’t know,” she said to reporters after the game. “We got to have a better start.”
Both teams got off to a slow start from the field, starting just 5-15 on field goals combined at the first quarter media timeout with 4:40 left in the quarter, when the Flyers led 8-6. Sophomore guard Maikira Cook had a pair of driving layups and a made free throw to lead with five points.
In the next three minutes, the Flyers dropped to just 3-10 from the field and had four turnovers as the Bulldogs jumped ahead to a 13-9 lead, forcing UD to call timeout.
“We were just trying to over-penetrate the first half, it was all one-on-one and then we got ourselves in bad situations and the turnovers came from them,” Green said.
But the Flyers finished the quarter strong, as sixth-year senior guard Jenna Giacone grabbed an offensive rebound and passed out to fellow sixth-year senior guard Araion Bradshaw, who knocked down a three. Then, Cook took a rebound and drove down the court before knocking down a buzzer-beating jumper as time expired to give the Flyers a 14-13 at the end of the first quarter.
Without Whalen on the floor (two early fouls), Cook stepped up for the Flyers. After the game, she said her mindset was “just to win.”
“Going into the game knowing that you’re already gonna win and playing good, I just wanted to play good and play with everybody and have fun.”
The issues continued in the second quarter, though, and after driving jumpers by Cook and Giacone gave the Flyers a 20-16 lead, the Flyers digressed. Finishing the first half just 9-26 with 8 turnovers, the Flyers also went cold from the field (one made shot in their last nine attempts) and trailed 25-23 at halftime. The Flyers were also without sixth-year senior Erin Whalen after guard picked up her second personal foul in the first quarter.
After an exchange of points saw the Bulldogs hold a 30-27 lead 90 seconds into the third quarter, the Flyers went on an 8-0 run with points from Giacone, junior forward Mariah Perez, junior forward Kyla Whitehead, and Cook to take a five-point lead.
The Bulldogs were able to trim the lead back down to one, but a Cook three-pointer pushed the Flyers’ lead to 38-34 at the media timeout with 4:15 left in the third quarter.
Throughout the rest of the quarter, the Flyers kept the visitors at arm’s length with threes from Cook and Whalen. Giacone got a floater to fall with 17 seconds left in the quarter, and the Flyers held a 48-42 lead heading into the final ten minutes. Cook, playing 25 minutes, had 19 points and 6 rebounds at the end of the third quarter.
“I think our intensity picked up and we just started playing together as a team,” Cook said. “Because going into halftime I think we only had two assists as a team. So we just started playing how we always do and we picked it up.”
In the fourth, the Flyers caught fire. Giacone got the barrage of three-pointers going to give the Flyers a nine-point lead, forcing a timeout by the Bulldogs. The lead held at nine, 53-44, when the Flyers called timeout with just under six minutes left in the game.
Over the next three minutes, both teams went 4-for-4 each from the field, and the Flyers led 62-52 with 3:30 left. Then, Whalen really caught fire by making three straight three-pointers, and the Flyers went ahead 69-52, forcing the Bulldogs’ final timeout with 1:42 left in the game. At the timeout, Cook had a career-high 23 points, and Giacone and Whalen had 16 points each.
“It’s always fun to see our shots go in,” Whalen said. “But I think a lot of that is credit to all the girls crashing hard, getting the rebounds, offensive rebounds, driving in, being able to see the kick, so credit to all the teammates, obviously.”
By the end of the game, which the Flyers won 73-52, Cook had six rebounds with her career-high scoring, and Giacone finished with a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds).
“We knew that rebounding was a huge key to the win today,” Giacone said. “They’re a physical team that crashes the glass, so I just wanted to get the mindset, box-out, go after every single loose ball. That’s what I did.”
For the Flyers, there was a major difference when Whalen checked back in, as every player on the team stepped up their game after an adverse first half.
“We definitely faced some adversity early on,” Giacone said. “We just had to stay in attack mindset, find a way to get the ball in the basket. Obviously we struggled a little bit, especially in the first half to get going, but (it’s) first game out. We bounced back in the second half though and figured it out.
“Our (Bradshaw, Giacone and Whalen) experience, our leadership, we gotta all come together and use that to help us use that to our advantage,” Giacone said. “Bring the younger people along and just lead in the team huddles on the court and use that to help us succeed.”
“Obviously they played together a long time, they’ve been here a long time together,” Green said. “So the first half (there was) some foul trouble, putting some new pieces out there, and we got to learn how to play with each other at game time. So it’s a learning process for some of our players that haven’t played as much last year. But you can see that comfort level when they’re all back out there together. And we just flowed better on both ends of the floor.”
Next up, the Flyers host Duke on Friday at 7 p.m.
“From top to bottom we have to be better on Friday night against the caliber team of Duke,” Green said. “They opted out last year, they only played a couple of games, and they have a ton of transfers and new kids on the roster.”
The Blue Devils play Tuesday night against Winthrop.
“We’ll get at least one game from this season (to look at),” Green said. “And then it comes down to really just us, focus on Dayton and doing what we need to do on both ends of the floor because at this point in the year and in the scouting, the preparation, we just don’t have a lot of material with this particular team because they didn’t play last year.”