UD women see WNIT as learning experience

University of Dayton women’s basketball coach Jim Jabir had mixed feelings about a possible WNIT bid.

Knowing his team’s string of six straight NCAA Tournament appearances had ended, Jabir put the question to his players.

Did they want to accept a WNIT bid or end the season with a disappointing loss to George Mason in the second round of the Atlantic 10 tournament?

“I flat out asked them,” Jabir said this week as his 14-14 squad prepared to play at Western Kentucky (24-6) tonight in the first round.

“We always talk up the importance of the postseason and how a lot of people would love to be in our shoes. You only get four years and we want them to cherish every moment of it.”

The younger Flyers learned about cherishing every moment this season after watching senior Amber Deane suffer what turned out to be a career-ending injury in game nine and junior Celeste Edwards go down with a career-ending concussion.

Add in a season-ending injury to Kelley Austria and the Flyers, after a 6-1 start, were constantly changing on the fly with players adjusting to new roles.

“I don’t think about it often, but it does come up in my mind,” Jabir said. “We were really rolling, we were doing things the right way. We were 6-1 with the number one RPI in the country.”

Then came the injuries, and Dayton went 8-13 down the stretch, dropping five of its final six with a rotation featuring one senior (Jodi Cornelie-Sigmundova), three sophomores and four freshmen.

The youth movement brings Jabir back to one of the positives about being in the WNIT.

“There is a benefit to it,” Jabir said. “It is another chance to get better and that is important for the younger (players).”

WKU is 12-1 at home, with November wins over Louisville (71-69) and George Mason (84-58). Dayton defeated Louisville on a neutral court 79-66 and split with George Mason, winning 81-58 at home and falling 66-62 in the A-10 tournament.

Kendall Noble (17.8 points per game) and Tashia Brown (17.3) are WKU’s key players.

“They are a smaller, athletic team,” Jabir said. “The like to press and trap and they shoot a lot of 3s. I think they’re pretty good. If we shoot the ball well, rebound and don’t turn it over, I think we will be fine.”

Jenna Burdette (11.2 ppg.), Saicha Grant-Allen (11.0) and freshman Lauren Cannatelli (10.7) lead the Flyers, who play the UT-Martin/Memphis winner if they win.

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