Saturday morning at the A.J. Palumbo Center featured #1 VCU versus #4 Dayton in the Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Tournament Semi-Finals. Last time these two teams played, Kseniya Malashka was the hero with the game winning shot giving VCU the 64-62 win back in February.
The rematch was a test for VCU early against Dayton’s tempo that pushed the Rams in all aspects. A magical performance by the birthday girl and free throws changed the course in favor of the Black & Gold.
“Wow. What a great semi-final. I think that game just epitomized what the A-10 is all about. It was gonna take 40 minutes and every one of our players playing their best.”
–VCU Head Coach, Beth O’Boyle
Not Your Usual Offense
Sydnei Archie took advantage of a Dayton turnover on a fastbreak layup to start the game. VCU began building their paint presence by feeding their forwards at the basket. The Flyers struggled shooting going 0-for-3 but stayed close thanks to free throws.
Jayla Scaife knocked down Dayton’s first three pointer that was responded by VCU’s Tera Reed with a mid-range jumper. Danielle Hammond returned to the VCU bench after receiving her 2nd personal foul.
Chemistry between the basketball and rim wasn’t found for the Rams. VCU shot 2-of-15 from the field in the first quarter. Defensively the Rams held Dayton down until the Flyers managed an 8-0 scoring run in the final 2:30. Dayton scored 9 of their 16 points from the free throw line shooting 90% (9-of-10).
Flying Away Slightly
The game plan didn’t change for the Flyers leading 16-10. Dayton continued setting up the post in search of free throw chances. Sofya Pashigoreva gave VCU life with a much needed layup off a Taya Robinson pass at the rim.
Scaife found her rhythm offensively scoring 4 quick points down low that forced Coach O’Boyle to call timeout with VCU trailing by 10. Hammond and Robinson gave VCU momentum with points while Dayton was held scoreless for over 2 minutes.
As the Rams started to get going, Lauren Cannatelli knocked the wind out of the Rams from three. Nothing was working to VCU’s standards offensively however the Rams only trailed by 7 points at halftime. Free throws were still Dayton’s game going 11-of-12 from the line in the 1st half.
VCU cranked up the tempo to start the third quarter. Dayton started the 2nd half airballing their first two shot attempts as the cold streak continued. Reed made moves towards the rim to cut the deficit. Chaos finally hit Dayton with turnovers and VCU reenergized offensively.
Reed sent a cross-court assist to Madison Hattix-Covington leading to VCU’s second three pointer of the game. The Rams reestablished their post game with Danielle Hammond taking the game to the Flyers from inside.
Dayton was held to 3 points during a 3:30 sequence holding a 34-30 lead. The Flyers were held to 30% (3-of-10) on their first 10 attempts. Turnovers held VCU back from taking the lead with 5 against Dayton in the third. Scaife bounced back for Dayton with a layup putting the Flyers ahead 37-31.
A B-Day Party in the Clutch
Cannatelli opened the 4th quarter with her second three pointer for Dayton. Taya Robinson responded with mid-range jumper and collected an offensive rebound that turned into a second chance bucket. Malashka brought the game within 5 points with a tough bank shot over Dayton’s defense.
The birthday girl in VCU’s Olga Petrova made a wishful impact at the perfect time. Petrova connected from three putting the Rams within 2. On the next possession, Petrova hit another three to give VCU a 43-42 lead for the first time since the first quarter. Her birthday would get sweeter scoring a jumper from mid-range for 8 consecutive points during a 10-0 VCU run.
Ice Water From The Line
Free throws suddenly transitioned to VCU’s strength with Dayton trying to muster a response. Hammond (9-of-10) and Robinson (10-of-12) led by example from the charity strike as VCU went 14-of-16 from the line in the 4th quarter. Robinson went 6-for-6 in crunch time while Hammond put the game on ice with the final two free throws.
“To get to a championship game is so hard…right now I’m so excited for our players that they earned the right to play in the A-10 championship game.”
–VCU Head Coach, Beth O’Boyle
#1 VCU bounced back and into the A-10 Championship game with a 61-52 victory over #4 Dayton. Taya Robinson led VCU with 16 points and 7 rebounds. Danielle Hammond collected 11 points and 3 rebounds. Olga Petrova celebrated her birthday with 8 points against Dayton off the VCU bench. VCU had a 47-31 rebounding advantage over the Flyers.
#1 VCU will take on the winner of #2 Fordham vs. #3 Duquesne in the Atlantic 10 Championship game on Sunday, March 10th. Tip-off at Noon at the A.J. Palumbo Center on ESPNU.