Fifth-year senior Erin Whalen (#21, picture from Feb. 16 against VCU) led the Flyers in scoring, pouring in 25 points to pick up where she left off from last year (scored 20+ five times in 2019-20). Photo courtesy of Flyer News.
The season has officially tipped off for the University of Dayton women’s basketball team with a 71-57 road win over Morehead State.
Without head coach Shauna Green, the Flyers appeared to face an uphill climb from the start, even against an Eagles team that finished 2019-20 with a record of 10-20 and no crowd to back them up.
With the game being broadcast on ESPN+, the broadcast crew said assistant coach Calamity McEntire was functioning as interim head coach. McEntire said the coaching was done more by committee to face a very different circumstance.
“Not having your head coach is a huge challenge,” McEntire said after the game. “And then, obviously, we had to get negative tests this morning… we haven’t had a situation where we’ve driven down the day of the game. We faced a lot with just not having a routine that’s not normal. But (I’m) super, super proud of the girls for pulling together and staying focused, even though things were different.”
McEntire said Green’s message before the game was that this is what “we’ve prepared for” and to go out and get the win. McEntire said her focus pregame was on keeping things simple.
The seemingly challenging uphill climb became simple, as fifth-year senior Erin Whalen got the game started with a three-pointer 45 seconds into the game. After a lay-up from fellow fifth-year senior guard Araion Bradshaw and a post-up lay-up from Whalen (plus a free throw from sophomore Mariah Perez), the Flyers jumped out to an 8-0 lead with 6:13 left in the first.
Morehead State got their first make of the game four minutes into the game, but the impact of 6-foot-5 freshman Tenin Magassa out of France helped the Flyers hold a 17-9 lead after the first quarter. Magassa brought down 4 rebounds and scored 6 points in her first quarter of game time off the bench.
“It’s awesome having Tenin come over and join our team from France,” McEntire said. “She’s an amazing young lady, and tonight we just thought she was really aggressive. We wanted to get the ball to her early, and she performed. She did a great job of being physical in her post-up and getting those paint touches and then finishing for us…. (I’m) super excited for her freshman debut, there’s more to come from her I’m sure, but what a great first game as a Flyer.”
The second quarter saw Morehead State find their rhythm on offense, cutting the Flyers’ lead to just 24-21 with 4:50 left in the first half. However, a quick spark of points from Bradshaw (made free throw and 3-pointer) helped pushed the Flyers back on top, 30-23, at halftime.
At the break, Whalen led the way with 10 points on 4-7 shooting (2-4 from 3-point range), with Magassa and Bradshaw both adding 6 points each.
The second half started much like the first, with the Flyers starting the third quarter on a 9-2 run. From a 39-25 lead with 6:27 left in the quarter, the Flyers continued to push the momentum and kept a double digit lead at 50-37 heading into the last 10 minutes.
An exchange of 2-pointers and then 3-pointers (including Morehead State’s first made 3-pointer with 8:33 left in the game) left the Flyers’ lead at 13 points.
However, three important plays by the Flyers pushed the lead to 20, effectively putting the game away.
Magassa drew contact on a tough lay-up, and knocked down the resulting free throw before Bradshaw made a great read on defense, tipping the pass and coasting in for a lay-up to give the Flyers a 60-42 lead with 7:40 left. Fifth-year senior guard Jenna Giacone then made a slashing jumper to extend the lead to 62-42 with 6:52 left in the game.
“I think (defense) is something that we focus on,” Bradshaw said. “That our core values: defend, rebound, run. We can’t rebound if we don’t defend, we can’t run if we don’t defend and rebound, so it’s something we focus on and I know that, for me personally, it’s something that they look for me to do, so I have to continue to do my role at the highest level and then continue to inspire my teammates because they inspire me.”
The Flyers finished the game with 7 blocks and 9 steals, living up to one of their core principles of defense.
After those three plays, the Flyers coasted down the final stretch into a 71-57 win to start the season 1-0.
Whalen finished with 25 points on 10-16 shooting and 3-7 from 3-point range, and Bradshaw added 15 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.
“That’s a lot of credit to my teammates,” Whalen said. “They’re able to find me when I’m open and just have a lot of confidence in me, and obviously with my coaches too, running plays for me. All credit is definitely to my teammates, I can’t do it without them. Setting screens and passing me the ball, but it’s definitely something exciting going into these next few games.”
“(Scoring) has always been something I’ve been able to do,” Bradshaw said. “But now that we kind of have more opportunities for me to score, I’m just looking to take advantage of them and continue to be confident and I know my teammates are confident in me. So (I’m) just keeping my eyes up, looking to score and take shots that I practice all the time.”
Giacone provide the defense, blocking 4 shots and grabbing a steal while contributing 6 points as well. Magassa also got a block and a steal off the bench, and was third on the team with 10 points, shooting 4-6 on the night.
Both teams struggled from the free throw line (UD: 17-27, MSU: 14-30) and on turnovers (16 each), but the Flyers were able to keep the momentum the entire way after jumping out to the early 8-0 lead.
The Flyers are scheduled to face Central Michigan next on Dec. 6 at UD Arena. The Chippewas lost 93-75 at No. 25 Michigan today, and don’t have another game before Dec. 6.
Presuming she tests negative for COVID-19 before Dec. 3, Green will be able to coach the Flyers against Central Michigan.