The Spiders did not fold, though, outscoring the hosts 20-17 in the third quarter and outslugging them 9-5 in the fourth.
But basketball games are not scored like boxing matches, so the Flyers moved on to Saturday’s 11 a.m. semifinal with 79-68 win.
Erin Whalen scored all of her game-high 21 points in the first half when she made all six of her 3-point attempts, and she laughed when asked how the basket looked early.
“It looked pretty big,” she said. “I mean our team does a really good job of finding us when we’re open so that always helps, and then just making sure you’re finding the hot hand, so that’s a lot of credit to my team for being able to find me and tell me to keep my head on straight.”
Jenna Giacone also scored all of her 11 points in the first half and Jayla Scaife scored 10 of her 11.
That left Kyla Whitehead to pick up the scoring slack after intermission. The sophomore forward had 14 of her 18 points in the last 20 minutes, helping the Flyers hold off a Spiders team that finished 15-17.
“I just felt I wasn’t really present on the offensive end, so coach had to get on us a little bit about certain things when we get in there,” Whitehead said. “And I just realized I had to take it in and just go do were supposed to. Just go get those boards and get those shots.”
Richmond got as close as eight points in the fourth quarter, but that was not until less than three minutes were left. It came after six consecutive empty trips for the Spiders, who weren’t able to capitalize on Dayton making only 1 of 17 field goals in the final 10 minutes.
“A few times this year we’ve gone on these stagnant runs where we can’t score,” Dayton coach Shauna Green said. “And we’ve done it sometimes in critical times, so I don’t like the feeling but I do have so much trust in this team. And when they’re out there I just have a feeling that they’re going to make a play, and I thought we made some defensive plays when we had to because we weren’t getting them back on the other end offensively. But … that’s a credit to our players who continue to step up in moments when they really need to make a play.”
Dayton is the favorite to win the tournament, but the Flyers may have no margin for error if they want to make the NCAA Tournament after going 7-7 in the nonconference.
They were 49th in the RPI in the middle of the week, and ESPN’s Charlie Crème projected them as a 12th seed Friday morning, though that was assuming they would get the conference’s automatic bid.
“Our focus is never to look forward,” Whitehead said. “It’s just one and done all season, so if we go in and do what we’re supposed to, everything will take care of itself from there.”