January 18, 2021 

COVID-19 hits Atlantic 10 hard

Nearly half the conference is on pause after a weekend of positive tests and protocols

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St. Bonaventure bench celebrates during Jan. 15 win over La Salle. Photo Credit: St. Bonaventure Athletics.

In less than 48 hours between Jan. 15 and Jan. 17, five Atlantic 10 programs announced they were pausing all basketball activities.

In her postgame press conference on Jan. 17, George Mason head coach Nyla Milleson said that Mason’s Jan. 20 game against Richmond would not be played.

Richmond has not announced a formal pause but did release a statement: “Richmond is currently following the guidance of University health officials and the Virginia Department of Health protocols.” 

Massachusetts played VCU on Jan. 15, two days before the team announced its pause, but has not released a statement regarding the status of the program.

There have been five teams that have not paused team activities this season: Duquesne, Mason, George Washington, La Salle and Massachusetts. Fordham has not officially paused team activities, though the program did cancel two games in December when head coach Stephanie Gaitley quarantined for two weeks due to her exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. 

After learning that nearly half of the teams in the conference were on pause, Duquesne head coach Dan Burt said, “That’s going to make tomorrow and Tuesday very interesting because you don’t know who you’re going to be playing. It could be on very short notice. And that’s just the way this year is. And so we’ll take it and we’ll be happy that we’re playing.” 

Burt said he sees the pros and cons to playing and, “I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages,” reporting only one isolated, positive test while being tested three times a week.

George Mason’s Nya Milleson offered a different perspective, reflecting on the negative impacts of playing during the pandemic. 

“It’s mentally draining, not just the basketball, but I think there’s six or seven teams in the A-10 right now on COVID pause and COVID is a stress … We don’t know what Wednesday is going to bring. It’s just a struggle right now,” she said. “We’re basically having to live in isolation and I’m lucky, I get to go home and have some sensible sense of normalcy. Our kids don’t.”

Thirteen teams took to the court last week. 

Davidson

Davidson fell to 3-3 in conference play and 6-6 overall after a 64-58 loss to Dayton on Jan. 14. 

The Wildcats struggled from the free throw line, making just 10 of 17 attempts. It is critical for the team to capitalize on the free opportunity for points when it can. 

Just six players scored for Davidson, including just two in double figures. Getting more players involved in the offense will make the Wildcats harder to defend and create more scoring opportunities. The Wildcats have been at its best when everyone gets involved in scoring. 

Davidson’s Jan. 16 game against Saint Louis was postponed after the Wildcats paused all team activities due to contact tracing after there was a positive COVID-19 test within Dayton’s program. 

Davidson is scheduled to host Duquesne and St. Bonaventure on Jan. 22 and Jan. 24 respectively. 

Dayton 

Dayton improved to 5-0 in conference play and 6-1 overall after a 64-58 win over Davidson on Jan. 14. 

On Jan. 15 Davidson announced that its program had paused all team activities due to a positive test within the Dayton program. 

Dayton’s depth aided them in its win again, with 29 of its 64 points coming off the bench. This was largely in part due to Tenin Magassa’s 19 points, a career-high for the freshman from France. She also added seven rebounds, two assists and five blocks. 

The Flyers have numerous players that can step up at any time and the team’s versatility and having nine players score was able to help them compensate for going just 3-9 from the free throw line, a season low. 

The Flyers are currently scheduled to host St. Bonaventure on Jan. 31. 

Duquesne

Duquesne fell to 1-4 in conference play and 2-7 overall after a four-point loss to La Salle on Sunday afternoon. 

The Dukes scored just six points in the first quarter and finished the game with 19 turnovers, something that Burt did not like. 

“The desperation that we played with in the third and the fourth quarter, I just don’t understand why I have to ask for that type of play, that type of energy to start the game. And that’s the biggest disappointment,” Burt said after the game. 

Megan McConnell continued to impress, leading Duquesne in scoring for the third time in four games, scoring 15 points and adding six rebounds, four assists, one block and two steals. 

Despite the freshman’s continued success Duquesne needs to find a way to close out games, losing its last three games by five points or less. 

The Dukes are scheduled to travel to Davidson and Fordham on Jan. 22 and Jan. 24 respectively.  

Fordham

Fordham improved to 7-3 overall and 4-2 in conference play after a win over Saint Louis. 

A five-point first quarter did not hinder the Rams, as they scored 67 points in the last three quarters. 

Anna DeWolfe (26 points) , Kaitlyn Downey (24 points)  and Kendell Heremaia (14 points) combined for 64 points, while just three other players scored. 

This strategy worked against Saint Louis, although in the future this may make the team easier to defend. 

One area Fordham continued to succeed in was three point shooting, with 13 of its 26 made field goals coming from behind the arc. In the last three quarters the Rams made 57.1 percent of its threes. This success from long range makes opposing teams work harder to keep pace on offense with Fordham. 

The Rams are scheduled to host St. Bonaventure and Duquesne on Jan. 22 and Jan. 24 respectively. 

George Mason 

Mason fell to 0-5 in A-10 play and 3-9 overall after losses to VCU and GW.  

“We’re on the struggle bus,” was how Milleson opened up the postgame press conference after a 67-47 loss to GW. 

The Patriots have had just one A-10 game in which the team lost by less than 19 points, with the team’s primary issues stemming on the offensive side of the ball. Mason is last in the conference in scoring in A-10 play, with 42.8 points per game, 11.6 points fewer than the team ahead of them. 

Freshman Teodora Popovic recently joined the team from Serbia and though she played just eight minutes against GW Milleson seemed optimistic about the spark she could provide. 

“I thought she was pretty solid. You can see the wheel spinning and you know I think definitely offensively she’s going to be able to help us. I think she’s probably a little behind defensively but she’s gone up and down the floor really about three minutes with us,” she said.

The Patriots are scheduled to travel to La Salle on Jan. 24. 

George Washington 

GW improved to 4-7 overall and 1-4 in conference play after a loss to Richmond and a win over Mason. 

The Colonials struggled offensively against Richmond, scoring eight or fewer points in both the first and third quarters. The team’s offense was able to get on track against Mason, making 41.2 percent of its shots. 

GW forced 20 turnovers and was able to turn them into 21 points. The Colonials only turned the ball over five times, which proved to be the difference in the game. During conference play GW is second in the A-10 in turnovers per game, averaging 9.8 per game. 

Keeping turnovers low and capitalizing on opponents’ mistakes will be key for GW in the coming weeks. 

The Colonials are scheduled to travel to VCU, La Salle and Saint Joseph’s on Jan. 20, Jan. 22 and Jan. 24 respectively. 

La Salle 

La Salle finished non-conference play with a win over Drexel and improved to 2-4 in conference play after a loss to St. Bonaventure and a win over Duquesne. 

The Explorers slow start was too much for the team to overcome, trailing 22-8 after the first quarter against the Bonnies. La Salle flipped the script and led 14-6 after the first quarter against Duquesne. 

Kayla Spruill led La Salle this weekend with 16 points in 16 minutes against St. Bonaventure and 24 points and four rebounds in 27 minutes against Duquesne. 

The Explorers are scheduled to host GW and Mason on Jan. 22 and Jan. 24 respectively. 

Massachusetts

Massachusetts improved to 5-1 in conference play, the team’s best since the 1999-2000 season, and 9-2 overall, matching its best start since the 2006-20007 season, after a 55-49 win over VCU. 

Just five Minutewomen scored, with Sam Breen once again leading the way for the team with 19 points, 11 rebounds, one assist and three steals. If this limited scoring success continues, defenses will be able to stop the team’s offense more easily. 

Massachusetts bested VCU in the paint, outscoring the Rams 34-22, the team’s physicality will prove important as A-10 play continues. 

The Minutewomen are scheduled to travel to Dayton and Saint Louis on Jan. 22 and Jan. 24 respectively. 

Rhode Island 

Rhode Island improved to 4-2 in conference play at 4-5 overall after a 56-53 win over Richmond on Jan. 15. 

Less than 24 hours after the Rams’ win that cemented the team’s best start in A-10 play in 25 years the team announced it would be pausing all team activities for a 10 day-day period after multiple people within the program tested positive for COVID-19. 

Emmanuelle Tahane led the Rams, recording her third straight double-double with 25 points and 13 rebounds, as well as three steals. 

Rhode Island dominated in the paint, scoring 40 of its 56 points from there, and limiting Richmond to just 18. The team will continue to be successful if it continues to dominate in the paint. 

The Rams currently scheduled to return to play on Jan. 26 if those that tested positive are medically cleared and play La Salle and Saint Joseph’s on Jan. 29 and Jan. 31 respectively. 

Richmond

Richmond improved to 6-4 overall and 3-2 in conference play after a win against GW and a loss to Rhode Island. 

Head coach Aaron Roussell was impressed by his team’s effort in the 47-42 win over the Colonials. 

“Today we won a game in the forties, I don’t think anyone in that locker room understands what that means for this program. I thought we defended very well. Rebounding was a huge difference today and being able to extend those possessions in the fourth quarter was big,” he said. 

The Spiders outrebounded the Colonials 51-32, tying the team’s largest rebounding margin of the season. 

Richmond was less successful on the boards against Rhode Island, losing the rebounding battle 34-29. 

As of Jan. 16 Richmond is following the guidance of University health officials as well as the Virginia Department of Health protocols after the Rhode Island program had multiple positive tests. 

The Spiders are currently scheduled to travel across town to play VCU on Jan. 20 and Jan. 24 respectively. 

St. Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure earned its first A-10 win of the season with a 65-60 win over La Salle on Jan. 15. The team improved to 1-4 in conference play and 2-6 overall. 

The Bonnies were able to secure the win by limiting fouls and heating up from behind the arc. The team committed just 14 fouls, a significant improvement over the 25 it committed against VCU. 

Olivia Brown led the teams three point attack, knocking down four of her seven attempts. Overall, St. Bonaventure went 9-24 from behind the arc, which proved to be the difference in the game. 

Due to the postponement of the game against St. Joseph’s the Bonnies are next scheduled to travel to Fordham and Davidson on Jan. 22 and Jan. 24. 

Saint Joseph’s

On Jan. 15 Saint Joseph’s announced that the program paused all team activities due to a positive COVID-19 test among the Hawks’ Tier 1 personnel. This is the program’s fourth pause overall and third due to a positive test within the Tier 1 personnel. 

Saint Joseph’s games against Duquesne and St. Bonaventure have been postponed. 

Saint Louis 

Saint Louis fell to 2-1 overall and 0-1 in conference play after a Jan. 17 loss to Fordham, the team’s first game since Dec. 6. 

In the team’s first game in 42 days the Billikens came out strong, leading the Rams 13-5 after the opening quarter. Ciaja Harbison’s 16 points, including her 1,000th career point, were not enough to stop the Rams. 

Saint Louis struggled from behind the arc making just 4 of its 16 attempts but went 13-17 from behind the arc. The team will have to continue to prove itself as it starts A-10 play two weeks behind most teams. 

The Billikens are scheduled to host Massachusetts on Jan. 24. 

VCU

VCU suffered its first conference loss, ending the week 4-1 in A-10 play and 6-6 overall after a win over Mason and a loss to Massachusetts. 

The Rams committed just three turnovers against Mason, something that, if continued, will allow the team more shot opportunities against more difficult opponents as the season continues. 

In both games the Rams struggled from beyond the arc, going 3-14 against Mason and 3-21 against Massachusetts. Improving the team’s three-point shooting will help the team be more well-rounded and successful as conference play continues. 

VCU is scheduled to host GW and Richmond on Jan. 20 and Jan. 24 respectively. 

Written by Natalie Heavren

Natalie Heavren has been covering women’s basketball since February 2019 and currently covers both the Atlantic 10 and the WNBA.

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