Women’s basketball: Dayton begins pursuit of second straight A-10 tournament title

UD will play La Salle in quarterfinals Friday

Shauna Green’s team got used to breaks during the 2020-21 season. The Dayton Flyers didn’t play between Dec. 6 and Jan. 1 and then between Jan. 14 and Jan. 31.

COVID-19 shut down the team twice. Then the Atlantic 10 Conference’s decision to switch the dates of the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments gave the Flyers a third break.

“I told our team just the other day, ‘Unfortunately, we know what this is like after being off about two weeks and coming back and preparing,’” Green said Tuesday. “But I said, ‘Every time we’ve actually had a break, we’ve had a good week of practice, and we’ve actually went on to play a lot better.’ Hopefully, that rings true for this weekend. They’ve approached it with a great mindset. We’re trying to just get better one day at a time, and they’ve been really focused.”

Dayton (13-2) will return to action for the first time since a 72-66 victory at Davidson on Feb. 28 at 11 a.m. Friday in the quarterfinals of the A-10 tournament at Virginia Commonwealth’s Siegel Center in Richmond, Va.. Its opponent will be No. 8 seed La Salle (12-13), which beat No. 9 Duquesne 72-68 in overtime in the second round Thursday. The game will be televised on ESPN+. Dayton won 95-66 at La Salle on Feb. 7.

Dayton earned the No. 1 seed by winning the regular-season championship with a 12-1 record. It won its first 11 conference games before losing 64-57 to Saint Louis at UD Arena on Feb. 20. The Flyers beat the Billikens earlier in the season: 59-52 in overtime in St. Louis.

If Dayton and Saint Louis play again, it won’t be until the championship game at noon Sunday. Saint Louis is the No. 3 seed. No. 4 seed Rhode Island is the highest seed on Dayton’s side of the bracket. Dayton did not play Rhode Island in the regular season. It was one of four Dayton games cancelled in January because of COVID-19.

Dayton seeks its fourth tournament championship and its first back-to-back championships. George Washington was the last A-10 team to win the tournament twice in a row (2015 and 2016).

“Anyone can win it,” Green said. “It should be a fun tournament to watch because I do think it’s up for grabs.”

To keep sharp during the break, Dayton held an intra-squad scrimmage Saturday. The Flyers focused on defense in the practices leading up to the tournament.

“Our ball-screen defense is something that we really need to clean up,” Green said. “Offensively, we’re spending a lot of time working against the zone. We hadn’t seen it a lot. Saint Louis pulled it out for that game. I know we’ll probably see it in the tournament, so we’re really trying to just be prepared to be sharper with our zone offense.”

Dayton planned to practice Thursday at the Cronin Center and then fly to Richmond. Unlike in previous tournaments, there was no opportunity for coaches to scout the previous games from the arena. They won’t get to practice in Richmond on Friday morning or have a morning shoot-around.

“It’s a little bit different with the format,” Green said, “but we’ve played all these guys before so we have some familiarity with them.”

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