Women’s basketball: Dayton falls to VCU on its home court in A-10 semifinals

The Dayton Flyers beat Virginia Commonwealth at UD Arena in the Atlantic 10 Conference women’s basketball championship game in 2020. VCU got its revenge in 2021, making the most of its home-court advantage in a 56-50 victory against Dayton in the semifinals Saturday at the Siegel Center in Richmond, Va.

No. 5 seed VCU outscored No. 1 seed Dayton 9-2 in the last 6:01. In that stretch, Dayton made 1 of 8 field goals and committed three turnovers.

“We didn’t do what we needed to do,” Dayton coach Shauna Green said. “We talk all the time about our three battles. There’s the battle of the boards, the battle of the paint and the battle of the ball, and we lost all three. It’s the first game we’ve lost all three. We had 15 turnovers that led to 15 points for them, and you can’t gift someone 15 points. They had 14 points from the free-throw line, so more than half of their points came from the free-throw line and our turnovers. It’s unfortunate. We got good looks out of our plays down the stretch, and we didn’t hit them. We were 11 of 27 on layups, and you can’t win these type of games when you shoot like that.”

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VCU (15-10) advanced to the championship game and will play No. 3 seed Saint Louis or No. 7 Massachusetts at 1 p.m. Sunday. The winner will earn an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.

VCU seeks its first A-10 tournament title. It lost 52-48 to Dayton in the championship game last season.

Dayton (14-3) will hope for an at-large berth, though Green said before the A-10 tournament she didn’t think her team had a chance of making the NCAA tournament if it didn’t win the A-10 championship because it played only two non-conference games. Dayton ranked 68th in the NCAA Evaluation Tool entering this game.

The NCAA tournament bracket will be announced at 7 p.m. Monday on ESPN. Dayton will also be a candidate for the NIT, which will announce its field after the NCAA selection show.

Dayton overcame two COVID-19 shutdowns to win the A-10 regular-season championship, and that’s what Green will remember about this season.

“They were always so resilient and so together and stayed the course and focused on the goals that we wanted to accomplish,” Green said. “We accomplished the one. Our first one was the regular-season championship, but our second one we fell short. But I love this group. I’m so proud of them. This is a special group to me. These seniors are just special. We’re gonna miss them. I would love for them to come back, but we’ll have those discussions later.”

Dayton advanced to the semifinals for the fifth straight season with an 85-70 victory Friday against La Salle. VCU beat Davidson 69-52 to reach the semifinals for the third straight season.

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Dayton had control of this game early, building a 19-12 lead in the second quarter. Then VCU asserted itself with an 18-4 run to end the half. Dayton regained the lead with an 8-1 run to start the third quarter. Dayton trailed 43-42 entering the fourth quarter.’

The lead changed hands six times in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. Dayton took its last lead, 48-47, on a layup by Tenin Magassa with 6:25 to play. The Flyers didn’t score again until 1:15 remained. A basket by Magassa cut VCU’s lead to 52-50.

VCU’s Taya Robinson clinched the victory by making 4 of 4 free throws in the final 25 seconds.

Jenna Giacone led Dayton with 16 points on 7-of-20 shooting. Kyla Whitehead scored 10 points. Magassa had 10 rebounds.

Dayton shot 36 percent from the field, while VCU shot 37 percent. Each team made 19 field goals. Dayton shot its second-worst percentage of the season at the free-throw line (6 of 13, 46.2 percent), while VCU made 14 of 19 (78 percent).

“It wasn’t the way we wanted the game to go,” Giacone said. “We dug ourselves a hole going into halftime and just struggled to get back out of it. It’s frustrating obviously.”

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