Erin Whalen announced she was transferring from Vanderbilt to Dayton in April 2018. Nineteen months later, after sitting out the 2018-19 season, she finally saw the court for the Dayton Flyers, and if her first performance is any indication, her wait was worth it.
» PHOTOS: Dayton vs. Lipscomb
Whalen led Dayton with 19 points in an 82-60 victory against Lipscomb on Tuesday in the season opener at UD Arena.
"It was so nice to be able to play and kind of get the nerves out of me in the exhibition and even in the scrimmage," Whalen said. "Being able to play with my teammates for once, it was a nice change for sure.""
Whalen, a 6-foot-1 redshirt junior forward from Charlotte, N.C., averaged 9.1 points per game as a freshman at Vanderbilt and was named to the Southeastern Conference all-freshman team. As a sophomore, she averaged 7.4 points. She scored two points in 11 minutes in Dayton's 77-67 exhibition victory against Ashland on Friday but played more like herself Tuesday, making 6 of 12 shots from the field and 5 of 5 free throws in 22 minutes.
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"That's what I see every single day in practice," Dayton coach Shauna Green said. "In the last game with Ashland, she was someone just going around at a million miles per hour. I just told her, 'Relax and play basketball. You know how to play. You've trained for this. You've practiced your whole life for this.' I think she just settled in and got into the flow. She's capable of scoring in a variety of ways, and her 3 wasn't even really flowing tonight. She's usually money on those. It was a good confidence game for her because we're going to need her going forward. She's capable of producing 15-20 points a night, and we need her to shoot like that."
Whalen said she worked on improving her strength and her ball-handling last season as she practiced with the team but couldn't play. It was hard sitting out and watching the team finish 17-14.
"I'm a very competitive person," Whalen said, "so it was very frustrating sitting on the sideline and not being able to contribute on the court, but it also put a lot of things in perspective. I feel I got to learn a lot being on the sideline, and I'm trying to carry it over to this season."
One other player made her Dayton debut in the opener. Freshman Mariah Perez had six points and three rebounds in nine minutes.
Sophomore Kyla Whitehead had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds and played a team-high 29 minutes. Shakeela Fowler had 11 points. Jayla Scaife, who was honored before the game for reaching the 1,000-point milestone late last season, and Julia Chandler each scored eight points.
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Dayton made 26 of 36 free throws, while Lipscomb made 10 of 11. Dayton had a 52-31 rebounding advantage and a 16-2 advantage on the offensive boards.
Dayton led 16-10 after the first quarter and stretched its lead to 38-23 at halftime.
"I thought we had a slow start," Green said, "and I didn't like our defense initially, but then I think we picked it up. We've just got continue to be more consistent defensively. I know sometimes it's hard to do that in these games and you can get lackadaisical, but we have to be mentally tougher than that. I thought everyone that came in was productive. Everyone that came in did their job. We got a lot of people minutes. It was a good game for that experience, but we've got to be better going into Saturday at Toledo."
This was the second meeting between Dayton and Lipscomb and the first since 2008. Lipscomb finished 4-25 last season.
Dayton plays at Toledo at 2 p.m. Saturday and then plays host to South Carolina at 7 p.m. Nov. 13.
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