Women’s Basketball: Big Dance Proves Too Much For Fatigued Flyers

Steve Miller
Sports Editor

I’m not much of a dancer.

Eh, let me clarify. I can’t dance.

But when a Dominican sister taught my Latin class how to swing in the 11th grade, I ascertained (intellectually) a few principles of the activity. I learned that when the beat picks up, you have to be ready to accelerate accordingly. And if you aren’t one step ahead mentally, you’ll fall many steps behind physically.

In the Friday’s NCAA first round matchup, the Flyers fell behind early, like a lanky, limbering engineer learning to do-si-do, unable to dance their way out of disappointment and a 84-65 loss.
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The first steps were strong, though. UD kept a tight grip on Marquette’s offense early and led 11-3 after five minutes. But the Golden Eagles, who average 80.5 points per game, were not about to comply with a slow, half-court waltz.

The tempo ticked faster and faster after Marquette regrouped, transforming the Yum! Center from a ballroom to Swingtown, turning the beat around and overwhelming the battered Flyers.

Dayton, who has seldom run a rotation deeper than seven players since the fall, showed signs of fatigue and was no match for Marquette’s gunning shooters. It didn’t help that both Jenna Burdette and Jordan Wilmoth each collected two early fouls, forcing Shauna Green to diverge from her preferred matchups.

“Our start was exactly what we wanted to do,” Green said.

“We were controlling the tempo. When Jenna got that second foul, it was big. I thought we took the momentum change when that happened, and they went on that run.”

Burdette had a team-high 19 points (5-15). A game-high second only to Marquette’s Natisha Hiedeman’s 32.

Even so, the Flyers remained within striking distance, but were unable to execute.

Like a socially-exhausted introvert at a Catholic wedding, Dayton only needed to drain a few shots to dance with competitive energy and prove a suitable partner. Those shots just didn’t go down.

The Flyers finished the game a mediocre 38 percent from the field and, here’s the kicker, three-of-13 from behind the arc.

Meanwhile, Marquette made 12 three-pointers, downing one after another with the ease of a highly-tolerant senior on St. Patrick’s Day, who is equally impressive and suspicious in their persistent saturation.

When you have a counterpart fueled by that kind of inebriation, dancing isn’t easy. Especially when you’re not energized for it.

Marquette, who last season was a five-seed upset by 12-seed Quinnipiac in the first round, was thirsty for a March win.

Dayton, who rolled through the Atlantic 10 with a 15-1 regular season record, had failed to carry their edge into the postseason, losing three of their final four games culminating Friday.

“The last couple games, like I said, I don’t know if it’s fatigue or what,” Green said. “We just didn’t have that spark to us that you saw for 17 games.”

It was indeed fatigue. But first it was injuries.
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An already-short roster was further constricted when Ashleigh Parkinson went down in November with an ACL. Maddy Dennis was sidelined for several weeks nursing a foot injury. Brittany Ward finally debuted when she healed, but simply didn’t produce at the level she did as a freshman at Butler.

That’s when fatigue set in for the remaining players filling unforeseen voids in the depth chart.

“They just, they wore down,” Green said, searching for a testimony after Friday’s defeat. “[Jenna Burdette] and Lauren [Cannatelli] played like the last how many games, 40 minutes.”

Cannatelli did, in fact. The junior guard did not get a minute of rest in UD’s final four games entering the tournament. She played 39 minutes Friday until it was a lost cause.

Burdette played every minute of both A-10 Tournament games and averaged over 34 minutes per game this season, as did JaVonna Layfield.

“At the end of the day, you look at them,” Green said, clearly emotional as the seniors’ careers drew to a close. “I told [Burdette], I ask so much of you. Just wore her down.”

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If “The Big Dance” is anything like the jubilant activity its moniker suggests, it’s certainly exhausting. Because even though I don’t know much about dancing, I do know one thing. It’s not easy. Mentally, physically and emotionally, it taxes.

And if you’re not up for it, the dance goes on.

“We just didn’t have it,” Green stated simply. “We didn’t have it.”

Photos taken by Christian Cubacub/Director of Digital Media