She ducked away from the question with a bit of a laugh and a little shift of her weight in the chair.
Shauna Green thought the comparison, the inference, was a little much.
“We heard you were fired up at halftime, so you channeled some Bobby Knight?” she was asked after her Dayton Flyers women’s team eked out a come-from-behind, 60-54 victory over Duquesne on Wednesday night at UD Arena.
“I didn’t think I was that…” she said without finishing the thought.
“These guys know I just have high expectations for their effort level and how we carry ourselves and how disciplined we are and how aggressive we are.”
But in the first half her team had come up short on all those measuring sticks and she was not pleased.
And so let’s just say when she addressed her team, she was more Bobby Knight than Gladys Knight. No crooning ballads. No “Midnight Train to Georgia.” No “Every Beat of My Heart.”
Green didn’t enter the dressing room with a song on her lips.
“Everybody knows Shauna,” said senior forward Kyla Whitehead. “She’s not afraid to speak her mind when it comes to us. She’s as fiery as we are.”
On this night, she had more first-half fire than her team, which had shown it’s the best in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The Flyers came into the game 16-3 and were unbeaten in A-10 play.
They were riding a 10-game winning streak and had not lost since Dec. 8, when they were edged 60-57 at Florida.
Wednesday night they were playing a Duquesne team that came in 9-11, but sure seemed better than its record.
It featured freshman sharp-shooter Tess Myers, the A-10′s leading three-point shooter, and Libby Bazelak, the Alter High grad who won all-state honors with the Knights while helping lead them to three straight Division II state titles and a 115- record in her four years there.
A Dean’s List grad student at Duquesne, she’s a 1,000-point scorer for the Dukes and was just coming off a triple-double performance in her last game at LaSalle.
Throughout the first half Wednesday, Duquesne played with more aggression, more savvy and, as Green noted, more confidence than the Flyers and led 30-25 at the break.
In the halftime dressing room, the Flyers – as they always do – first gather amongst themselves to talk through their performance as Whitehead stands at the whiteboard and writes down the list of things they need to address.
This time when the Green came in, took a look at the board and saw her players understood their shortcomings. She then tried to find a way to transform them from a whiteboard wish list to on-court reality.
“She has a way with words, that’s for sure,” Whalen said. “It’s obviously not something we want to have to make her to do, but if, at times, she has to say it in a screaming tone, that’s what she’s got to do.
“You just take the tone out of it and understand what she’s trying to say to us. It’s important and you want to hear it. You can’t take it personal.”
Whitehead smiled and nodded: “She lit a fire under us. She let us know, if we didn’t pick it up, we were gonna lose.
“When she’s yelling at us, you just have to take it on the chin – and then apply it. “
And when the third quarter opened, the Flyers did just that.
They went on an 8-0 run – thanks to two baskets by Whalen, two free throws by Whitehead and a layup by point guard Araion Bradshaw – and took a 33-30 lead.
Duquesne eventually steadied itself and regained its five -point advantage to lead 48-43 at the end of third quarter.
And that’s when Green’s speech really took hold.
The Flyers outscored Duquesne, 17-6, in the final period.
“Offensively, I thought we never really got into a good rhythm all night,” Green said. “But in the end, it’s all about finding a way to win when you don’t necessarily play your best. And we hung our hat on our defense, like we always do.
“To hold that team to six points in the fourth quarter! They’re really, really good and it’s really, really hard to do.”
But it’s something the Flyers have done before, said Whitehead, who led the team with 13 rebounds and 11 points:
“That’s what we’re capable of. We’ve had these quarters in the past couple of games where we’ve held teams to 1 point (Richmond, first quarter) and 4 (Davidson third quarter) and now this one, 6 points.
“You can start a game bad, but you can finish as you want to. It’s all about your will, your heart and your pride. I think we showed that in the fourth quarter or (at least) the last couple of minutes in the fourth quarter.”
Whalen and Jenna Giacone, who came off the bench and scored five points in the final 3 ½ minutes, each finished with 13 points. Sophomore guard Makira Cook added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Myer led Duquesne with 17 points, going 5 for 9 from beyond the arc and Bazelak added seven points, five assists and three steals.
As for why her 17-3 team struggled against the Dukes, Green had a couple of thoughts:
“There are no excuses. I think we came out flat and thought we looked a little tired. Again, it’s the grind of February, the middle of the season. It’s tough, it’s hard. Our main starters are playing a ton of minutes. But that’s basketball. Everybody is in this position.
“And when you keep winning, the pressure builds and you start playing tight. I think that’s some of what you saw in the first half.”
Whitehead thinks this game provided a good lesson:
“I’m very confident that we’ll come out of his game and we’ll be much more locked in at the start of our games. Every game you learn from, but this on especially.”
She and Whalen both credited Green with jarring the team out of its doldrums.
“As much as it’s not great to hear some of the things she told us, we appreciate it,” Whalen said.
Whitehead agreed: “Whatever she says, we take it to heart. She’s our coach. She sees everything. She knows what’s best for us.”
So maybe the Bobby Knight comparison was off the mark.
The more Green’s players talked, the more it sounded like there should be a Gladys Knight song in the background:
“You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.”
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