The Dayton Flyers don’t have a deep rotation but may need the bench to contribute more than ever in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The key reserve is Jordan Wilmoth, a 6-foot-3 sophomore forward from Immaculate Heart Academy in Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., She likely will be the first player off the bench when No. 9 seed Dayton (23-6) plays No. 8 seed Marquette (23-9) at 2:30 p.m. Friday at the KFC Yum! Center.
“One thing coach always preaches is energy,” said Wilmoth before practice in Louisville on Friday, “so being the first person off the bench, I try to bring that, coming in for Alex (Harris) or J (JaVonna Layfield) and just spreading some light to the team running up and down the court.”
Marquette likes to push the pace even more than Dayton, which plays a similar style. Marquette averages 67.3 shot attempts per game. Dayton averages 60.8.
That’s one reason Dayton coach Shauna Green said it will be a fun game for fans to watch. It’s also a reason the bench will be so important. Even small breaks for some of the starters could help. Tiaera Phillips, a 5-11 junior guard, and Brittany Ward, a 6-1 sophomore guard, should also see action in an eight-player rotation.
“Obviously we’re used to playing 40 minutes a game with most of our starters, but this is going to be at a whole ‘nother pace, and defensively, as well,” Green said. “So our bench and the couple people that will come off of the bench are going to be big. They need to bring energy. They need to be solid defensively, and they need to be able to manufacture some points. We don’t need them to be anything that they’re not. We always talk about that. Just add some fire, add some energy, but do what you do and be who you are. But we need a little bit of production in terms of offense, and then we need them to be really, really solid in terms of taking care of the basketball and playing defensively very solid.”
Wilmoth enjoys her role. She has increased her numbers across the board from her freshman season. Her scoring has jumped from 1.6 to 5.4 points per game. Her rebounding has improved from 1.3 to 3.3. She’s playing 20 minutes per game, as opposed to 7.7 last season.
Although Wilmoth played a limited role as a freshman, she had a strong performance in the NCAA tournament, scoring seven points in 14 minutes in a 67-56 loss to No. 5 seed Tennessee. She might have scored more but left the game with a knee injury that kept her out of action for four weeks after the season.
Wilmoth said she was nervous for her first NCAA tournament game. It will be a different story Friday.
“It was my first college game on that level,” she said. “Coming into this year, it just feels like another game. We’re all really excited to play.”