Photo courtesy of Keegan Gupta.
Despite the cancellation of March Madness, Dayton women’s basketball ended 2019-20 on a strong note – winning both the A10 regular season and tournament championships. It didn’t always seem like the Flyers would have such a dominant season.
The Flyers entered the season with an experienced roster, featuring seven seniors. The veterans started off the season in a promising manner, winning their first two games to Lipscomb and Toledo.
The two non-conference games that every Flyer fan had marked on their calendar were yet to come. Highlighting Dayton’s difficult non-conference schedule were games against UConn and South Carolina, two perennial national powerhouses.
The South Carolina game did not set up the season well, and the Flyers offense came out flat.
“We did what we were supposed to do, we just couldn’t hit shots,” head coach Shuana Green said after the game. “When we don’t hit shots it takes away some of our confidence.”
Dayton dropped the game 75-49, and struggled for the next stretch of the season, losing five of their next eight games. The worst of which came at the hands of the Connecticut Huskies.
UConn beat Dayton 75-37, and it was familiar shooting woes that sunk UD.
“You shoot 20% and you can’t beat a lot of teams; you sure as hell can’t beat UConn shooting 20%,” Green said.
The non-conference schedule was brutally difficult, but it may have been one of the aspects that prepared them for success.
“It was incredible that they were able to get South Carolina and UConn to campus,” sophomore and Red Scare social media director Kyle Brun said. “Even though they lost those games, I think that experience not only helped the team but energized the fanbase as well. It was an exciting time to be a fan.”
After a December 20 loss to Wake Forest, the Flyers flipped a switch.
“Coach talked about it – ‘you don’t have any failures unless you don’t learn from it,’” senior guard Jayla Scaife said after a game against Rhode Island. “So, all the games we lost in non-conference, we’ve learned from and we just continue to grow every game.”
UD took off, winning 15 straight games. As pandemonium was reaching an all-time high for the men’s basketball team, Flyer fans started to take notice of the women putting together their own extremely impressive season.
“As the women’s basketball team started going on their run the atmosphere of the games changed,” senior and Red Scare chief of staff Michelle Smith said. “The arena filled with more fans who wanted to watch them play, the team played with more confidence and didn’t worry when games came down to the wire.”
Dayton was poised in crunch time – pulling out several close wins during the run. Six of the Flyers’ wins during their streak were decided by six points or less. One of the highlights was the slim win over the No. 2 team in the conference, VCU.
Dayton suffered only one conference loss to Fordham but ended the regular season with a 15-1 conference record – clinching the A10 regular-season championship.
After the impressive season, Dayton featured heavily in the postseason conference awards. Green (Coach of the Year) and Scaife (All-Conference First Team, All-Defensive Team) highlighted the group. Redshirt junior Erin Whalen was named to the all-conference third team and redshirt junior Aarion Bradshaw joined Scaife on the All-Defensive team.
Dayton entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed and continued to give fans the strong performances they had become accustomed to.
Wins over Richmond and Saint Louis set the stage for the finals – a rematch against VCU. In familiar fashion, the game came down to the wire.
Down the stretch, Scaife hit three important free throws and blocked VCU’s final shot, clinching the 4-point win, an A10 Championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
“The VCU pep band was sat next to our student section, we were chirping each other throughout the entire game,” Smith said. “Our girls pulled off the Championship win which then silenced VCU. It was one of my favorite wins because we were able to celebrate our victory and VCU’s loss right in front of them.”
Of course, the Flyers never got the chance to take that trip to the NCAA Tournament. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 the tournament was canceled.
“It’s definitely upsetting that the women didn’t get to play in the NCAA tournament but I am grateful because they still got to celebrate a big win with their team,” Smith said. “The team was able to end on a high note with a victory and that’s something they’ll never forget.”
Even though the Flyers never got a chance to show what they could do on the national stage, they ended the season with something for their seven seniors to remember. And the seniors left giving the fans something to remember as well.
“The seniors were able to deliver and was really evident to all of us just how much they cared,” Brun said. “We were really proud with the way they finished their season: on top.”