Redshirt junior guard Aarion Bradshaw (cover photo) was called “a little bulldog” by head coach Shauna Green thanks to her tough play. Courtesy of Keegan Gupta
Sports Staff Writer
The Dayton Flyers women’s basketball team has turned a 5-7 record into a 14-game winning streak and is sitting at the top of the Atlantic 10 conference as the regular season nears its end.
The Flyers (19-7, 12-0 A-10) have become the favorite to make the NCAA Tournament from the A10 and have a chance to become the first women’s basketball team to be unbeaten in A10 play since the 2012-13 Flyers. Head coach Shauna Green attributes the turnaround to the confidence that her team has been playing with.
“You get a couple of wins and then that confidence comes in,” Green said. “And plus, with conference play, they’re veterans so they know these teams [in the A10] so well, and they’re so locked in. The focus right now [for] this team, they’ve been very professional in everything they do. We come in and we work.”
That work has been paying off for the Flyers, who have outscored opponents 919-733 during their 14-game winning streak. Green said that the team’s focus has made her job easy.
“I’m not coaching focus, I’m not coaching, ‘We got to be locked in right now,’ I’m not coaching effort, they’re ready to go every day,” Green said. “And when you can do that, just coach and prep and talk X’s and O’s and what we have to do, it’s a huge advantage.”
Leading the way throughout the winning streak is senior guard Jayla Scaife, who has averaged 13.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game through 11 games in A10 play. Scaife said the biggest change that she has seen in the team during the turnaround has been growth.
“We’ve learned from the non-conference,” Scaife said. “Coach talked about it before this game (against Rhode Island), ‘you don’t have any failures, unless you don’t learn from it.’ So, all the games we lost in non-conference, we’ve learned from and we just continue to grow every game.”
Senior guard Jenna Giacone, who has scored in double-digits eight times this season and holds the best 3-point percentage for a player with at least 14 attempts (42.9 percent), said the struggles in non-conference play has helped the team overall.
“Obviously, we had some big losses,” Giacone said. “It was a rough patch…but in the end, we’re doing what we want to do in the A10. That just built us as a team, prepared us for adversity… against some of the best teams in the country and it’s helping us in conference (play).”
Giacone echoed Scaife when she said growth has been a key to their improvement and that depth has been important as well.
“Having people ready at all times, and if one person is off one night, someone else is there to have their back and have the entire team’s back,” Giacone said. “It’s someone new every single night but playing those teams in the non-conference really just strengthened the entire team and showed us what can happen in close games or games where we’re up 20 or down 20.”
The tenacious play and passing of redshirt junior guard Araion Bradshaw – who Green said is “like a little bulldog” – and redshirt senior guard Shakeela Fowler has caused problems for the Flyers’ opponents, as the two have combined for 6.8 assists and 2.7 steals per game.
Redshirt junior guard Erin Whalen – the team’s leading scorer, averaging 13.2 points per game through 26 games – said a key to the team’s continued success has been practice.
“Everyone is always so locked in,” Whalen said. “We’re not going very long, just everything is executed to the ‘T’ and we’re all really focused and excited for the A10 (Tournament), especially with us being at home, keeping that in mind.”
With a 14-0 record in A10 play, the Flyers have clinched at least a share of the A10 regular season championship and the No. 1 seed for the A10 Tournament, which takes place at University of Dayton Arena March 6-8.