March 2, 2023 

Sights and sounds from Day 1 of the Atlantic 10 Tournament

'It’s a beautiful day to play basketball'

WILMINGTON, Del. — What do you imagine when you read “THIS. IS. MARCH.” Two dynamic pep bands? A team coming back from being down double-digits to pull within one in the fourth quarter? An arena so loud earplugs are necessary?  Dayton and VCU’s matchup to tip off the Atlantic 10 tournament had all that and more and the excitement continued through the next two games of the day. And that was just the first day of March. 

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There are four more days and 11 more games to go before an A-10 champion is crowned. But it’s a one-game season every day for each team, here’s what happened Wednesday. 

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No. 12 Dayton 67, No. 13 VCU 61 

Though Dayton hasn’t had more than seven players play in a game since Jan. 28 against GW, fielding a short rotation since the start of February isn’t something the team talks about.

“The one thing I always drive to them is ‘next woman up’ and I don’t talk about it,” Dayton head coach Tamika Williams-Jeter said in the post-game press conference. “So the only time they hear it is from [the media] … In practice, I absolutely never talk about it. Sometimes we didn’t have a sub to come in … and I just never talk about it, so they don’t think about it. So they don’t have that excuse.” 

Junior Anyssa Jones acknowledged that playing with a limited rotation is hard, but that the team shows up for each other no matter who is playing. 

Six Flyers played against VCU, but the team never trailed by more than four and a 9-13 shooting performance in the second quarter propelled the team to a lead that would prove to be too much for the Rams. 

Williams-Jeter knew rebounding would be important, and while the Atlantic 10’s leading rebounding team lost the rebounding battle 40-30, the Flyers were still able to disrupt the Rams’ shots, particularly under the basket.

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Though the game was a matchup of last year’s semifinal (with the same result), Dayton looked a lot different. Williams-Jeter noted that senior Sydney Freeman, a three-year starter at Ball State before transferring to Dayton, was the only player with experience playing in a tournament. 

“We had a lot of stomachs who were a little bit messed up,” Williams-Jeter said. “They were nervous but I said hey, when the ball goes up, all that leaves your body because I’ve been here before, millions of times.”

Williams-Jeter watched the Atlantic 10 championship game last year as the head coach of Wittenberg University and feels blessed to be a part of the conference’s tournament this year. 

“For my team, it’s just an opportunity of a lifetime to go through four years and experience something like this,” she said. “And they do a great job, the bands are aggressive. the cheerleaders are great, the sun is shining in. It’s a beautiful day to play basketball.”

No. 10 Duquesne 58, No. 15 Loyola Chicago 57

Duquesne and Loyola Chicago came down to the final possession and Duquesne head coach Dan Burt told reporters after the game the best three words you can hear in March are “See you tomorrow” — words he did hear from the moderator when he was done with his availability. 

The Dukes were dominant in the first half, going 14-for-30 from the floor and 7-for-12 from three while building out a 14-point halftime lead. The team then surrendered an 11-1 run in the first 2:55 of the second half and led by no more than nine the rest of the way. 

Duquesne guard Megan McConnell believes the team got complacent in the second half, something they can’t do against George Washington on March 2 and expect to win.

While the Ramblers had multiple chances to win the game on the final possession, the Dukes were able to hold strong in their defense, even when they weren’t guarding their intended player. 

“After we missed that layup, we all just sprinted back and I think [Precious Johnson] was on my girl and I ended up on 15,” McConnell said. “And so we just had to lock down one more possession and we did.” McConnell, who is listed at 5’7, was tasked to defend, Sitori Tanin who is listed at 6’2. 

Burt knows his team will have to have a short memory to find success against GW. 

“As soon as they walk out of the locker room this is over,” he said. “And that’s really the way that we approach it. Everything that we do once we leave this locker room is in preparation for George Washington from the ice baths and the cryotherapy to how our scouts are, how we sleep tonight, how we eat. So you have to move on. You have to shower it off. It’s still a win. When it’s May or June, it’s still a win.”

While the Ramblers couldn’t get their second win against an A-10 opponent, spirits were high and humor peaked through in the press conference. 

“Well I think our record is a little growing pain,” junior Maya Chandler said with a laugh in response to a question about the growing pains this season in the team’s first year in the Atlantic 10. 

Though the team struggled in the first half, head coach Allison Guth believes their second half was fueled by remaining on the court and getting the shots up in the offenses they wanted to run in the second half. Guth took responsibility for how the final possession of the game turned out, noting that she needed one more timeout but didn’t have it. 

Loyola Chicago lost its last 16 games of the season but continued to persevere. 

“This has been a struggle for us, but the way we continue to show up … We promised one thing that we would leave the floor empty and we have left absolutely empty this year,” she said. 

No. 11 Davidson 70, No. 14 St. Bonaventure 51 

Davidson opened the game with a 10-16 shooting, 26-point first quarter and never looked back, with St. Bonaventure not getting closer than 8 in the final three quarters. 

Tomisin Adenupe, in her second season with the Wildcats, was a significant part of her team’s success. She finished the game with a career-high 17 points, as well as 5 rebounds and 1 block, her third game in a row in double-figures.

Adenupe also knocked down her fifth three of the season, making her 3-4 in the last two games. But her success comes to no surprise to head coach Gayle Fulks. 

“We saw flashes last year, we saw flashes in some non-conference games and in our postseason tournament, where we went to the WBI of hey, she really can be very efficient,” Fulks said. “She’s very explosive. And when she gets going, it’s hard to keep her in front and her hitting threes right now that makes a huge difference.” 

Adenupe was one of four Wildcats in double figures with Suzi-Rose Deegan, Elle Sutphin and Issy Morgan scoring 17, 16 and 12 points respectively. 

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One area Fulks would like to see her team improve is consistently locking into the opponent’s personnel and prevent them from doing things that they’re good at. Against Saint Joseph’s on March 2, she would like her team to force the Hawks to go to their second and third options. 

Though there are areas she knows her team can improve, Fulks was proud of her team and their performance against St. Bonaventure.

“Ultimately, it’s hard to win in March and we talked about needing to be a tough team, being a disciplined team and a very focused team and I thought for long stretches of that game that’s what we showed,” she said. “And that’s why we earned  an opportunity for another one.”

Written by Natalie Heavren

Natalie Heavren has been a contributor to The Next since February 2019 and currently writes about the Atlantic 10 conference, the WNBA and the WBL.

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