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La Salle women can't overcome Dayton's size

01/12/2022, 11:30pm EST
By Matthew Ryan

Matthew Ryan (@matthewryan02)

PHILADELPHIA — Coming off one of its biggest wins under head coach Mountain MacGillivray, La Salle returned to Tom Gola Arena for the first time in 25 days, trying to pull off another upset. But, this time, the Explorers' task was bigger. Literally.

Standing in front of La Salle was a Dayton team that started four players 6-foot-1 or taller, with the 6-5 Tenin Magassa getting the start at center. On the other hand, the Explorers had three players in the starting lineup at 6-foot, and the 6-2 Gabby Crawford coming off the bench was their tallest player.

Amy Jacobs (above, in Dec.) and La Salle couldn't quite handle a tall Dayton squad Wednesday night. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

The Flyers possess size that is somewhat familiar to the Explorers on the practice court, but not in game action. La Salle has a scout squad with players around 6-5, but they weren't around to help prepare for the Flyers because the school is on winter break.

"Yes, we do see that (size), but we haven't played against it in a game," MacGillivray said. "That's the biggest team we're gonna play."

Throughout La Salle's 65-57 loss to Dayton, that height advantage was clear. The Flyers entered the half with a 31-22 lead, and 28 of those points for Dayton came inside of the paint. Its lone outside shot over the first two quarters was a three by Jenna Giacone to beat the shot clock buzzer.

As the inside dominance continued, it hurt the Explores not only on the scoreboard but also in the foul department. Standout forward Kayla Spruill played a season low 14 minutes, fouling out early in the fourth quarter. The senior entered the game averaging 15.5 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game, but on Wednesday posted season lows in points (five) and rebounds (three). 

Crawford and the 6-foot Claire Jacobs also fouled out in the fourth.

"I did not think that we were cavalier with our fouls," MacGillivray said. "I thought our positioning was really good, and, you know, that's the way it goes."

"I think Mountain makes us go that hard every day at practice, so that it just carries over into the game," Amy Jacobs said. "I feel like nothing we do is ever gentle. ... It's pretty much ‘aggressive’ and ‘go at it’ with everything all the time, and if you're not doing that, you get a sub. So it's pretty much just ‘go hard or go away.’"

Dayton finished the contest outscoring La Salle 42-20 in the paint and narrowly won the rebound battle, 40-38. While a decent amount of the paint points came off post touches for Magassa — who finished with a season high 18 points — the Flyers did a significant amount of damage driving to the basket and dumping the ball off, something MacGillivray said his team did a better job preventing in the second half.

Although entering the game the size disadvantage was clear for La Salle, MacGillivray's plan was to take away Dayton's three pointers. The Flyers entered the game shooting just under 19 threes a game at a 38.8% clip, which ranks sixth best in college basketball. But, against La Salle, they shot only nine threes, knocking down three of them.

In a game that was there for the taking, the offensive end was a night to forget for the Explorers. They shot just 29.2% (19-of-65) from the field and 20.7% (6-29) from deep, and Amy Jacobs, who had 10 points, was the lone Explorer in double figures. The Explorers cut their deficit down to one during the third quarter but couldn't capitalize, trailing by around two or three possessions for the remainder.

"I thought tonight we put forth an effort that was good enough to get us a win," MacGillivray said. "We really competed the whole game. … We shot poorly tonight, and you're gonna lose games when you don't make shots. … But I'm really pleased with the effort, pleased with the position that we put ourselves in, and that's what we’re looking to do night in, night out."

The loss for La Salle (8-6, 1-1 A-10) extended its losing streak to seven games against Dayton (10-3, 2-0). Over that stretch, this is the closest the Explorers have come to pulling out a win. Just last year, Dayton trounced La Salle 95-66.

"We're starting to figure it out and playing better. And really it comes down to the competitiveness and fight,” said MacGillivray, whose team is back in action for a noon game Monday at Big 5 rival Saint Joseph’s. “And I think we found out something about ourselves in the second half of that Fordham game (on Sunday), and there was a definite carry over tonight.

"[We found out] we have a little toughness inside."

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