While it was not the position the University of Dayton women’s basketball team is used to being in to start the Atlantic 10 tournament, the Flyers weren’t complaining.
The Flyers, used to having a first-round bye as one of the top two seeds, had to play in the opening round Tuesday as the No. 4 seed.
The good news? They were at home.
Behind 13 points from senior Lauren Cannatelli, the Flyers advanced to the quarterfinals on Friday with a 65-38 win over LaSalle.
“It was definitely nice to have one final game at home,” Cannatelli said. “It’s crazy that it’s been four years here already. Maybe we needed this to get the momentum going.”
Dayton entered the tournament 2-3 in its last five games, but will now take a two-game winning streak into a matchup against fifth-seeded Davidson at 2 p.m. Friday at Duquense.
“Anytime you can get another game in it’s better than sitting around doing nothing,” Dayton coach Shauna Green said. “Anytime we can play, it is good for us because it gives us a chance to get more players experience and that is going to be the key for us.”
Some of that inexperience may be tested in the tournament after Maddy Dennis went out less than three minutes into the game with a back injury.
“She is such a big part of the team,” Green said. “When you are a young team, you want to play, but the first goal this time of year is to come out healthy. Hopefully, she will be OK because we need her.”
Fortunately, the Flyers didn’t need Dennis, a 6-foot-2 forward, to move to 16-12 and end LaSalle’s season at 6-25.
Cannatelli started and ended the first quarter with baskets as the Flyers grabbed a 12-7 lead. She scored off a turnover to push the lead to 22-9 with 6:24 left in the half.
“We had lulls and we never got to the point where we were able to get over the hump to have a 25 or 30 point lead,” Green said. “They took a lot of shots deep in the shot clock and that was by design because they knew they had to do something different to limit our possessions.”
Dayton led 30-16 at halftime and 46-31 heading into the fourth thanks to a defense that held LaSalle to 27 percent shooting (13 of 47).
Julia Chandler came off the bench to replace Dennis and finished with 11 points and eight rebounds while Jayla Scaife finished with 10 points.
Twelve of the 13 players found the scorebook for Dayton as it connected on 45 percent of its shots (24 of 53).
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