Shauna Green saw a desperation in her Dayton Flyers women’s basketball team after a 69-57 loss to Virginia Tech on Dec. 20. They had less than 24 hours to get ready for their next game, against Georgia Tech, in the West Palm Beach (Fla.) Tournament.
At that point in the season, Dayton had fallen short against Maryland, Northeastern, Green Bay, South Carolina and Buffalo — all ranked in the top 60 of the RPI — and the loss to the Hokies, who rank 42nd, was their latest missed opportunity.
“They felt, ‘We’ve come this close,’” Green said Thursday. “We’ve been close against all these teams. Our season can go two ways here.’ That’s what they felt. You saw the response. That’s what I’m most proud of. They knew this was a huge game and could really swing our season one way or the other, and they came out and battled and competed and played so hard and with so much passion, it was great to see.”
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With Jayla Scaife scoring 27 and Lauren Cannatelli scoring 24, Dayton beat Georgia Tech 85-66 on Dec. 21 in its last game before the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays. The Yellow Jackets (11-3) rank 45th in the RPI.
Dayton, ranked 66th, improved to 5-6. That’s where its record stands entering the first Atlantic 10 Conference game of the season at 1 p.m. Saturday against La Salle (3-11) at UD Arena. The game was originally scheduled for 2 p.m.
“The record isn’t per se what we wanted,” Green said, “but I definitely think the growth and the experiences is what we expected and why we scheduled as tough of a non-conference schedule as we did. We had some tight games in there that could have went either way but really capped it off with a great game. I think everything came together down in Florida against Georgia Tech, a really physical big team.”
Dayton finished 7-4 in non-conference play last season and 6-6 in Green’s first season. Each of those teams won or shared the A-10 regular-season championship and made the NCAA tournament.
“Taking positives from this non-conference, the record aside, it’s not about that long term,” Green said. “It’s about growth. It’s about learning what this team needs to work on — what the strengths and weaknesses are — and I think we got that. Now it’s a new season. Everyone’s 0-0. We’ve got to go into this game on Saturday with a one-game mentality. We look at it as 16 rounds, and this is the first round.”
Scaife leads the team in scoring (15.5 points per game) and rebounding (6.7). Cannatelli (12.8 points per game) and Syracuse transfer Julia Chandler (10.3) also average in double figures.
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The depth of the team should help the Flyers during the grind of the conference schedule. Ten players saw at least five minutes of action against Georgia Tech, and eight scored. Maddy Dennis (10 points) and Jenna Giacone (9 points) were the biggest contributors off the bench.
“We have the depth this year we haven’t had,” Green said. “They’re really starting to play well. We need that. I’ve been saying we can’t just have Jayla and Lauren as our only scorers, and they took that to heart and really came out against Georgia Tech and stepped it up from a scoring aspect.”
Dayton has a chance to create momentum early in the conference schedule. Three of the first four games are at home. It is 20-4 at UD Arena in Green’s first two seasons.
“When we play at home, we feel pretty good about it,” Green said. “It’s nice to start out conference play with two games here.”