Blue Demons fall to Dayton Flyers 92-80 in Maggie Dixon Classic championship game

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The No. 25 women’s basketball team, out-rebounded and out-hustled on defense, lost a stunner 92-80 to the Dayton Flyers in the championship game of the Maggie Dixon Classic Saturday night.

The Flyers, who advanced to the tournament’s final after defeating Mississippi Valley State, were clearly the Blue Demons’ most physically imposing opponent faced thus far in the early season. They went right at DePaul’s bigs, who were often caught out of position to most effectively contest inside shots. Dayton also controlled the glass, finishing with a 46-40 rebounding edge.

“Dayton is a really good basketball team and they showed that tonight,” said head coach Doug Bruno. “I just don’t think our team yet, together, is ready to beat a team as good as Dayton.”

Though a ranked team, DePaul (1-1) didn’t look it in the first half, struggling to keep Dayton’s Olivia Applewhite and Ally Mallot away from the paint. Mallot’s consecutive baskets around the eight minute mark put the Flyers on an 11-0 run, giving them a 20-11 lead. Applewhite finished the game with 13 points and five rebounds, while Malott added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

DePaul simply couldn’t contend on its own side of the ball, unable to find any kind of offensive rhythm in the half-court setting. Their subpar defense and willingness to crash the boards hurt their cause.

“In the first half, we didn’t guard or rebound. We were in an impetuous state where we think individually we can create shots against a good defensive team,” said Bruno. “You do all that together and you’re chasing a really good Dayton team. It’s very difficult to win college basketball games when you don’t defend.”

At the half, DePaul found itself down 48-35, despite ending on a 7-0 run. Jasmine Penny and Katherine Harry each had eight points, yet their scoring was rendered moot behind Dayton (2-0) outscoring DePaul 26-18, including an 11-2 advantage in second chance opportunities.

“Mental toughness is all about adversity,” said Bruno. “How do you handle yourselves when you’re down — if we can’t handle the adversity of being down, then we’re a bunch of babies.”

Bruno’s message must have rung true with his squad, though it took some time to kick in. Their perimeter defense continued to be less than ideal, allowing Applewhite to step out and hit back-to-back threes to give the Flyers a 54-37 lead. One thing the Flyers didn’t do in the first half was shoot the ball from beyond the arc (2-12 in the first half), yet shot a more efficient 4-9 in the second.

Amber Deane, who led all scorers with a quiet 27 points (10-13 shooting), found herself in a brilliant offensive groove, often answering DePaul baskets with quick shots of her own. Her coast-to-coast layup with just over a minute to play put the nail in the coffin, giving the Flyers a 91-79 lead and stifled the Blue Demons’ furious comeback.

“Second-half execution” was something positive to take away from this game, according to Bruno. DePaul withstood being down by 21 points with 17 minutes to play in the game to come all the way back  to cut the lead to just seven (86-79) with under three minutes left.

But the steady Flyers, well-disciplined in the waning moments of the game, were able to find a couple nice avenues to break the Demons’ full-court pressure for clutch baskets, led by Deane and Sam Mackay, who finished with 12 points and six assists.

“I was proud of our players for the way they scrambled back in the last eight minutes, but as happy as I was with our never-give-up attitude, the first 32 minutes put us in that position,” said Bruno. “We really wanted this game. I was really excited about the opportunity to play a good team in this tournament, but it’s a great win for Dayton because they beat a ranked team.”

The women next turn their attention to Howard, who they play at McGrath-Phillips Arena Nov. 17. Tip-off at 7 p.m.

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Notes:

Brittany Hrynko and Katherine Harry were both named to the Maggie Dixon Class All-Tournament Team.

Anna Martin, who shot just 4-15 from the field (13 points), had a career-high nine assists.