With their schedule getting tougher each year, the Dayton women’s basketball players have learned to take games against power-five conference teams in stride.
And it’s no different as they enter the NCAA Tournament on Saturday against traditional juggernaut Tennessee.
“We are just going to focus on what we can do. They are just another team,” guard JaVonna Layfield said Friday before practice at the KFC Yum! Center. “We can’t get caught up in all of that.”
The Flyers, 22-9, put that focus to the test today at 4 p.m. Host Louisville and Chattanooga play at 1:30. The winners meet Monday for a chance at the Sweet 16.
“Every team you play is great,” Dayton coach Shauna Green said. “You have to approach things with the right mindset. I think our schedule prepared us.”
Here are five things to watch today:
1. Common opponent
The Flyers and Volunteers each played Texas A&M. The Flyers defeated the Aggies 74-47 in a holiday tournament in Florida on Dec. 20. Tennessee lost to the Aggies 61-59 on Feb. 12.
“Obviously A&M is a completely different style than we are,” Green said. “We know we are going to have to be as sharp as possible to win the basketball game.”
2. Get it and go
Dayton likes to get the rebound and run. The Flyers average 66.1 points while Tennessee averages 73.9, but the Volunteers have allowed teams to shoot 39 percent from the floor.
“It comes down to defense and rebounding,” Green said. “I think we play at a faster pace. We like to get out and run and try to get some easy baskets in transition.”
3. Battle of the boards
The Flyers average 42 rebounds to 41 for their opponents. Post play will be big.
Dayton has seniors Saicha Grant-Allen (6-foot-5) and Andrijana Cvitikovic (6-3) along with freshman Alex Harris (6-1) in the post. Tennessee counters with Mercedes Russell (6-6) and also features Diamond DeShields (6-1), daughter of former major leaguer Delino DeShields, now the manager of the Reds’ Class AAA team in Louisville.
“I would say I enjoy playing against shot blockers,” Russell said. “I know Dayton has a couple of posts that like to block shots and I think that is always a fun, challenging game.”
4. On a roll
Dayton enters having won 19 of its last 22 games, claiming the Atlantic 10 regular-season and conference tournament titles.
Tennessee dropped its opener in the Southeastern Conference tournament 72-64 to Alabama and is 6-4 in its final 10 games heading into the tournament.
5. Depth and pace
Dayton has 10 players that who average 10 or more minutes while Tennessee has six.
“We have to use our strengths,” Green said. “(Rotating players in) is something we have done all year and we like to play with a lot of pace and I think our depth helps us. Hit or miss, we want to have the ball down the floor and a shot up in six seconds or less. That’s who we are.”
NCAA women’s tournament, first round
No. 12 Dayton vs. No. 5 Tennessee, 4 p.m., ESPN2
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