For the second time in the last 10 seasons and the first time in Shauna Green’s three seasons as head coach, the NCAA tournament will take place without the Dayton Flyers.
Fourth-seeded Dayton had a chance to extend its run in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament, holding the lead after each of the first three quarters Saturday in the semifinals but lost a nine-point lead in the fourth and fell 61-52 to No. 1 seed Virginia Commonwealth at the A.J. Palumbo Center.
The game was similar to the regular-season matchup on Feb. 14 when Dayton led by nine after three quarters and was outscored 25-14 in the fourth, losing 62-60 in Richmond, Va.
“I thought we came out and played really well, but it was just that fourth quarter again that got us,” Green said. “We were up on the boards at half and then we ended up getting beat on the boards, and they ended up having 13 offensive rebounds. Give them credit. They made plays when they had to. They got rebounds when they had to. You can’t beat a team like this when you get out-rebounded by 16. We gave them everything they could handle. I’m proud of these guys for the focus and the fight and really the execution except for a short span.”
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Dayton fell 17-13, and while its NCAA tournament chances died, it could still earn a NIT bid. The Flyers were 14-14 when they last missed the NCAA tournament in 2016 and played in the NIT that season.
Green said she hopes this team gets more postseason experience, but it will be a long wait to find out if the season will continue. The NIT bracket will be announced March 18.
A 47-31 rebounding edge for VCU helped decide this game as did a disparity in free throws. Dayton made 16 of 20. VCU made 27 of 36, including 14 of 16 in the fourth quarter.
Neither team shot the ball well. Dayton made 16 of 55 field goals (29.1 percent) and 4 of 14 3-pointers (28.6), while VCU made 15 of 46 field goals (32.6) and 4 of 8 3-pointers (50.0).
Dayton led 40-31 after a 3-pointer by Lauren Cannatelli with 9:22 left in the fourth. VCU then began a 14-2 run, taking the lead on a 3-pointer by Olga Petrova at the 4:53 mark and pushing its advantage to 45-42 on a jumper by Petrova on the next possession.
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Jayla Scaife led the Flyers with 21 points. Brittany Ward scored seven. Cannatelli and Shakeela Fowler each had six.
“When you go out there and you give everything you have, it just hurts more,” Ward said. “I know me and my team really wanted this win, and to have our seniors go out with a championship would have been great, and another NCAA tournament run would have been great. I feel like my team still gave everything we had. We fought hard. We just have to make sure we play for 40 minutes.”
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