Magassa, Cook lift Flyers past Fordham for key A-10 win

Dayton's Makira Cook drives toward the basket against Fordham at UD Arena on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. Erik Schelkun/UD Athletics

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Dayton's Makira Cook drives toward the basket against Fordham at UD Arena on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. Erik Schelkun/UD Athletics

The long and the short of the Dayton Flyers amazing comeback Sunday at UD Arena was simple:

Tenin Magassa and Makira Cook.

The former is 6-foot-5, the latter is 5-foot-6.

The two sophomores are the biggest and the smallest players on the UD women’s basketball team or, as Cook put it: “I come up to just a little above her waist.”

But Sunday against a very good Fordham team – they were very much alike.

The pair were the main reason the Flyers rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter and held the Rams scoreless in the final 5 minutes, 12 seconds of the game while they went on their own 11-0 run.

The long and the short – Dayton won, 52-48.

“Hopefully this game gives us a lot of confidence to know, against a really good defensive team, we can have a 20-point quarter,’” Coach Shauna Green said afterward. “I mean against Fordham? 20 points? In the fourth quarter?”

Magassa had eight points, five rebounds and made four pressurized free throws in that period.

Cook had six fourth-quarter points and made the defensive play of the game, stealing the ball from Fordham’s veteran guard Asiah Dingle with just 93 seconds left and then driving to the Dayton basket to score and cut the Rams’ lead to two.

She then tied the game, 48-48, on a play Green designed during a time out with 50.4 seconds left.

Jenna Giacone put the Flyers ahead with two free throws with 8 seconds left and Magassa was just as unflappable, making her final two free throw with one second left.

Cook finished the game with 12 points and Magassa had 13 rebounds, 10 points (that included a perfect 6-for-6 at the free throw line )and four blocked shots. She now has 79 blocks in her 36 games as a Flyer.

Senior guard Erin Whalen led UD in scoring with 13.

This was one of the biggest wins of the season for the 14-3 Flyers.

Fordham is a veteran team that starts a grad student, a junior and three seniors, including the Atlantic 10′s leading scorer, Anna DeWolfe. It has a 13-5 record and has beaten teams like Michigan State, Princeton and Farleigh Dickinson.

And Fordham has had recent success against the Flyers, winning two of the last three games against them.

For much of Sunday’s contest, the Rams looked like they were going to take another one from UD.

Just as Magassa and Cook were very much alike late in the game, they mirrored each other early, too:

Both struggled.

In the first quarter, Cook was held scoreless. She missed three shots and turned the ball over once.

Magassa was goose eggs, as well – zero points, zero rebounds – but she did have two turnovers, both coming on three-seconds calls.

After each miscue, Green pulled her out of the game for a while and the second exit came with a bit of a sideline lecture from the coach.

“I just told her I wanted her to be more aggressive,” Green said.

The coach was asked if Magassa, whose language and cultural upbringing are different than her teammates – she’s from Morsang-sur-Orge, France, a southern suburb of Paris and had never been to the United States, much less the UD campus, until he showed up for school in the summer of 2020 – understands those animated pep talks on the sideline?

“She probably thinks I’m crazy,” Green laughed. “But I love that girl to death and I have such high expectations for what she’s capable of. She wants to be great and she works hard and listens to what I say.

“Hopefully, it made her mad at me and got her to go out and play harder. To her credit, she came back in the second half and was great.”

With a quiet aside, Green grinned and added: “And she understands English very well now.” Magassa smiled when asked about the vocal welcome Green gave her when she returned to the bench in the first quarter.

“I understand, but I try not to take it personal,” she said. “It doesn’t make me mad…well, maybe a little. I just try not to listen. I’m trying to stay focused on the game.”

Cook didn’t need a pep talk. She knew she’d work through her malaise.

“I have a short memory,” she said. “Really I didn’t realize I had taken as many shots (16) as I did today. But I know if you miss a shot, that can’t stop you from the 100 possessions you have in front of you.”

Cook is the team’s second leading scorer (15.4 p.p.g.) and Magassa is the Flyers leading rebounder (6.6).

They are cornerstones for future Flyers’ teams.

And it turns out they have something else in common, though Cook’s claim was a little hard to believe.

“I have a couple of her sweatshirts from France,” she said.

They must hang down to your ankles.

“Nooo,” she said. “It’s an over-sized look, but they fit me fine.”

The long and short?

When it comes to Magassa and Cook, one size fits all.

Sunday they were very much the same.

In the fourth quarter, they were great.

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