Women’s basketball: Balanced Dayton beats Rhode Island for 12th straight victory

Dayton women’s basketball coach Shauna Green doesn’t sub just to get a starter some rest. She knows she can rely on her deep bench to score and defend.

“That’s the nice thing about having options and having depth,” she said.

So when Greene turned to Jenna Giacone in the first and third quarters Sunday, Green wasn’t surprised that her decision meant instant offense. Giacone scored a team-high 16 points and sparked runs that helped carry the first-place Flyers to a 71-60 victory — their 12th straight — over Rhode Island at UD Arena.

Giacone entered for Dayton (17-7, 10-0 Atlantic 10) with 2:58 left in the first quarter. She took her first shot, a short jumper, and made it for a 13-7 lead with 2:13 left. Giacone was back on the bench to start the second quarter. This time she entered at the 7:38 mark, scored on the fast break 48 seconds later and made a 3-pointer 59 seconds after that. A seven-point lead was up to 10. Her last basket of the half set the lead at 28-17. Two 3-pointers less than a minute apart in the third quarter took the lead from 11 to 51-36, and the Rams (11-11, 4-6) never challenged the lead again.

Green shuffles the starting lineup at times, but Giacone has not started a game. She averages 18 minutes and 6.7 points. On Sunday she scored in double figures for the eighth time this season and became the seventh player to lead the Flyers in scoring. Jayla Scaife, coming of a string of 20-point games, added 14 points despite drawing extra attention from the Rams’ defense, and point guard Araion Bradshaw scored 10, reaching double figures for just the second time.

“We were just talking in the locker room about our depth and how big it is against other teams,” Giacone said. “I don’t mind coming off the bench. I get a feel for the game. It works for me.”

The extra scoring from Giacone and Bradshaw offset an off day for leading scorer Erin Whalen, who missed nine of her 10 shots.

Depth also mattered in the post because of the presence of 6-foot-5 Rhode Island center Nicole Jorgensen. She’s been the A10 player of the week three times this year and averages 16 points. She missed a lot of shots early and got most her 25 points after the Flyers had built a big lead. Green used five players to guard her and gave away 13 fouls. The goal was to make Jorgensen post up as far from the basket as possible. When the Flyers did, Jorgensen missed shots. When she got the position she wanted she either scored or shot free throws.

“We doubled some, but it was like is she going to be able to score enough to beat us?” Green said. “Even if she had 30 is that going to be enough if we do our job on everyone else? I thought she earned every basket. When the game was tight I thought we did a good job on her.”

Dayton’s win streak will be challenged with four of its final six games against teams in the top half of the A10 standings. The Flyers have a two-game lead on VCU, which visits UD Arena next Sunday at noon. The Flyers started the season 5-7 against a difficult schedule, so complacency has not been a problem during the winning streak.

“They’re so locked in,” Green said. “I’m not coaching focus, I’m not coaching we’ve got to be locked in right now, I’m not coaching effort. They’re ready to go every day.”

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