RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — After a staggering start to their season, the Dayton Flyers are returning to the NCAA Tournament following a one-year absence.
Kelley Austria scored 20 points and Saicha Grant-Allen added her seventh double-double of the season in leading Dayton over Duquesne 70-56 on Sunday in the Atlantic 10 Tournament championship game.
The victory sends the Flyers back to the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in eight seasons after getting knocked out in their first game of last year’s conference tournament.
But now the Flyers are back under first-year head coach Shauna Green, who took over the program after the sudden resignation of Jim Jabir in September after 13 seasons.
“The biggest thing is they lost their coach,” said Green, who served on Jabir’s staff from 2012-15. “It was sudden, and hard for them. My biggest concern was to take care of them, while I was recruiting. Knowing them and being at Dayton before, made the transition as good as it could be.”
Austria was 7 of 11 from the field, including three 3-pointers, with Grant-Allen scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for the top-seeded Flyers (22-9), who were regular-season co-champions with George Washington. JaVonna Layfield added 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists with Jayla Scaife scoring 11 points and Jenna Burdette handing out eight assists and making three steals.
Kadri-Ann Lass made three 3-pointers and scored 19 points with Amadea Szamosi and Conor Richardson adding 12 points each for the Dukes (18-15), who were turned back in the title game for the second straight year.
“This team has been everywhere from Paris to Budapest, to San Francisco at Thanksgiving, and finally to Richmond,” said Dukes coach Dan Burt. “We shared some tears today, but I couldn’t be more proud. You couldn’t ask for a better group of women than this team. We had some losses we shouldn’t have had, but never once were they ever not great representatives of Duquesne University. Some shots just didn’t fall today.”
Brianna Thomas scored the game’s first five points and the Dukes held onto the lead until late in the second quarter. The Flyers went ahead 32-29 at halftime after consecutive baskets by Harris and Burdette, part of a 14-3 run over the final five minutes that included nine straight points from Scaife.
Dayton led the rest of the way, shooting 54 percent in the second half. Duquesne trailed by seven before the Flyers finished the game on a 11-4 run over the final four minutes with Austria scoring five points and Layfield four in that span.
Burdette was named the Most Outstanding Performer of the tournament and was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Austria and Grant-Allen. Also named to the team were Duquesne’s Szamosi and Jackie Kemph of Saint Louis.
Burdette — a 2014 Reedsville Eastern graduate — averaged 14.0 points, 5.3 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 32.7 minutes during the trio of A-10 tournament wins over VCU (77-61), Saint Louis (75-65) and Duquesne (70-56).