Archdeacon: Williams-Jeter takes team to task as Flyers stumble to 0-7

The winless University of Dayton women’s basketball team now has something in common with Katie Smith, one of the greatest players in women’s basketball history.

Both have been taken to task in no uncertain terms by Tamika Williams-Jeter.

The Flyers felt the coach’s wrath for the first time this season during halftime of what would end up a 52-51 loss to Ohio University at UD Arena Tuesday night.

The UD women – who started the season with an especially thin roster and have now had key players missing in each of the last four games – are 0-7 and off to the worst start in the history of the program.

By halftime Tuesday, Williams-Jeter had seen enough.

Her team started the game like sleepwalkers – turning the ball over, missing easy shots and playing soft defense – and trailed 15-4 before the midpoint of the first quarter.

The lax play continued in the second quarter though OU, which came into the game 1-4, wasn’t playing much better.

When she entered the locker room at the break with her team down by seven, Williams-Jeter said she saw too much smiling and lightness of mood.

The first-year UD coach is not used to losing.

Growing up here, she was part of the Dayton Lady HoopStars AAU team that won a national title.

At Chaminade Julienne, she led the Eagles to the state title game, was named Ohio’s Miss Basketball and was the consensus national prep player of the year.

She won two NCAA titles at UConn – one coming with an undefeated season – an even as a pro, her Minnesota Lynx teams faltered at times but never completely failed like this

And that triggered her halftime rebuke.

“That’s the first time I really got after them,” Williams-Jeter said afterward. “I saw absolutely no effort and we’re not a team that can play with minimal effort.

“We’re not talented enough. We don’t have enough chemistry and we don’t have enough experience. So when that’s the case, you have to have effort and fight.

“And we had none.”

After the chastisement, she said her team did come out better in the second half, but “it still wasn’t good enough to win the game.”

And yet it should have been,

The Flyers fought back and a Maliya Perry layup with 70 seconds left gave them the 51-50 lead.

A missed OU layup gave the Flyers the ball back, but UD had two turnovers in the final 16 seconds and played no defense on Ella Pope’s uncontested lay-up that gave the Bobcats the winning margin with three seconds left.

While Williams-Jeter said she’s never lost as much as this before – “not even close,” she said – she was reminded of her rookie WNBA season in Minnesota, when “we’d win, lose, win and lose some more.”

Asked what she remembered from that 2002 season – Minnesota finished 10-22 and did not qualify for the playoffs – Williams-Jeter thought a second, then smiled faintly:

“I’ll never forget the game. We were at Utah. I didn’t play because I had a bad concussion from our Washington game (two days earlier.) I had kind of gotten knocked out a few seconds and ended up with like 18 stitches in my mouth.”

As it turned out, there were some choice words in there, too.

“After the Utah game I went off on Katie Smith in the locker room,” she said. “I told her she was a loser.

“I told her she didn’t care about making the people around her better. She was always cool with me, but I thought she made excuses how some people weren’t good enough.”

Although Williams-Jeter had a superb rookie season – she led the Lynx in rebounds and steals, was second in scoring and made the All Star ballot as a first year player – it took some brass to upbraid Smith, who was a seven-time WNBA All Star, was the all-time leading scorer in women’s professional basketball, won three Olympic gold medals and would be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

“I didn’t care right then, that’s what I thought,” Williams-Jeter said. “But today Katie is one of my best friends. She called me before the game today.”

Credit: Erik Schelkun

Credit: Erik Schelkun

Praising Perez

After Tuesday’s game there was a touching scene between Williams-Jeter and Mariah Perez, who was the one player she praised after the game.

Perez was standing by herself, just beyond the locker room, and she was in tears.

“This is my dog right here,” Williams-Jeter said quietly as she hugged the 6-foot-3 center.

For the third time in the past four games, Perez had made an impact.

Against the Bobcats, she had 16 rebounds and nine points. Six days earlier against Kentucky in the Bahamas, she had a career-high 16 points and 10 rebounds and six days before that she had 12 points and 11 boards against Northern Kentucky.

Prior to that – in 76 career games at UD – she had averaged 2.4 points and 3.1 rebounds a game.

“She’s changed her body (she dropped 15 pounds by changing her diet, Perez said) and she’s prepared now.” Williams Jeter said. “She comes in early, she leaves late.

“Today I stayed in the locker room and watched her before the game. She kept to herself, watched whatever she watches on her phone and got focused. After the game she was in there crying. This really means something to her.

“She’s said, ‘I believe in you. I believe in the coaching staff. I’m going to do whatever I can.’”

Perez, who is from Newark ‚New Jersey, is in her fourth season at UD. She was one of the just four players who stayed on the team after coach Shauna Green went to Illinois and 10 of last year’s players – five who graduated, five who transferred – left, too.

Perez started 18 of the 19 Flyers games in COVID-shortened season two years ago, but made just one start in 29 games last season.

With her size, she likely could have gone elsewhere, too, but said she stayed because of Williams Jeter:

“Who wouldn’t want to play for her? All the things she’s been through and done: She knows what winning looks like. She knows how to improve players. And she knows how to be personable.

“She’s such an amazing woman.

“And I love the fact that I’m being coached by a woman who looks like me.”

Credit: Erik Schelkun

Credit: Erik Schelkun

Tough start

While 0-7 is the worst start since the Flyers program began in 1968, there have been other tough years.

The 1994-95 team under coach Clemette Haskins started the season 1-7 and finished 5-25. And in Jim Jabir’s first season in 2003-04, the Flyers went 3-25 and lost their last 12 games.

This season though has been especially tough, because Williams-Jeter took over a program where the cupboard was bare. All the top scorers, rebounders and most experienced players were gone. One of the just two recruits that Green had lined up de-committed and the other has a torn ACL and is lost for the year.

And Arianna Smith, a transfer from Indiana State, is out after ACL surgery, but may return soon.

In recent weeks the Flyers have been without three of their most experienced players.

Sydney Freeman, a point guard transfer, missed the past three games before playing Tuesday and leading the team with 13 points.

Maryland transfer Taisiya Kozlova missed a game with a concussion and Tuesday night leading scorer Destiny Bohanon (14.3) didn’t play after a hard spill onto her knees against Kentucky.

While Williams-Jeter has dealt with a depleted lineup, she couldn’t accept her team playing without maximum effort, be it diving on the floor for loose balls, taking defensive charges or getting many of the 19 turnovers they had.

“She had every right to get on us a halftime,” Perez said. “We deserved it.”

As she got ready to leave, Williams-Jeter was asked which of her chastisements had been most bombastic: Was it the Minnesota meltdown 20 years ago? Or Tuesday’s halftime takedown?

She thought a moment and then chuckled:

“I’d say the Minnesota game. I used a lot more choice words back then.”

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