Redshirt senior guard Jenna Giacone (#12, center, picture from Jan. 14 against Davidson) led the Flyers with 17 points in their 15-point win in the quarterfinals of the A10 women’s basketball tournament Friday. Photo courtesy of Christian Cubacub, Flyer News.
As the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic 10 women’s basketball tournament, the Dayton Flyers kicked off their run at a second-straight A10 championship with a 85-70 win over the La Salle Explorers on Friday in Richmond, Va.
The Flyers jumped the Explorers to start the game, as redshirt senior guard Erin Whalen made her first three shots of the game (two from 3-point range) to tally 8 points and give the Flyers a 12-3 lead, forcing an Explorers timeout with 7:22 remaining in the first quarter.
Flyers head coach Shauna Green said after the game she thought the team got off to a good start, but didn’t like the defensive intensity the rest of the half, especially the second quarter.
A pair of threes from La Salle cut the Dayton lead down to three, but the Flyers responded with a 14-5 run to close the quarter leading by a dozen. 10 of those 14 points came from freshmen, led by center Tenin Magassa, who finished the first quarter with 6 points as the Flyers led 26-14.
“I was just waiting for this tournament (to start),” Magassa said. “I was excited to come into it.”
The Flyers’ relative scoring ease waned in the second quarter, as the Flyers shot just 3-11 on field goals over the first six minutes of the quarter. The Explorers chipped into the Flyers’ lead, cutting it to 33-26 at the second quarter media timeout with 4:13 left in the quarter.
Redshirt senior guards Whalen and Jenna Giacone led a 7-2 Flyers charge to push the lead to a dozen, but 4 turnovers in two minutes by the Flyers allowed the Explorers to cut back into the deficit. A buzzer-beating 3-pointer from La Salle sent the Flyers into halftime with just a 42-37 lead.
“I told the team in a nice way at halftime, we need to wake up and be consistent,” Green said.
At the break, Magassa led the Flyers with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 4 blocks, and Whalen and Giacone combined for 19 points. Although the Flyers led field goal percentage significantly (48 to 27 percent), they trailed turnovers 9-6 and limped into halftime with a slim lead against the 12-13 Explorers.
Neither team could gain a significant advantage to start the third quarter, until a one-woman run by Flyers’ junior forward Kyla Whitehead pushed the Flyers’ lead to 13, tied for their largest of the game. First, Whitehead knocked down a pair of free throws, and then followed a teammates miss on the next possession. The 6-0 individual run concluded on a fast-break layup after a Giacone steal, and forced La Salle to call timeout with 5:10 left in the quarter and the Flyers up 58-45.
Giacone said after an up-and-down first half, the team was focused on winning the last 20 minutes of the game.
“The start to the second half helped us build momentum,” Giacone said.
La Salle outscored Dayton 11-7 over the final five minutes of the quarter, but the Flyers still held a comfortable 65-56 lead heading into the final quarter. At the end of three quarters, four Flyers were in double-digit points and eight of the ten players had scored.
The Flyers started the fourth quarter on fire, jumping out on an 11-2 run to take an 18-point lead, but the Explorers responded with a quick 5-0 burst to cut the deficit to 76-63 at the media timeout with 4:59 remaining in the game. With freshmen guards Makira Cook and Capria Brown now up to 9 points each, the Flyers had six players with 9 points or more.
Down the final stretch, the Explorers could not get close enough to pose any threat, and the Flyers pulled away for a comfortable 85-70 win to advance to the A10 semifinals.
With five players in double-digit scoring and one more with nine, the Flyers got scoring contributions from all over the court, and also had three players finish with double-digit rebounds.
The Flyers also dominated the rebounds 52-35, which Green said always put them in a position to win, and field goal percentage (48 to 31 percent) to coast into the semifinals, where they will face Rhode Island or VCU on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Dayton, which has improved to 14-2, did not face Rhode Island during the regular season, but won 67-62 over VCU on Feb. 14 at UD Arena.