Fighting back after a tough four-game losing streak, Women’s Basketball won the final two games of their regular season, improving the team’s conference record to 7-9 from their 5-9 start and earning the ninth seed for the upcoming Atlantic 10 tournament. The Wildcats will kick off tournament play on Tuesday, February 26th as they take on tournament hosts and eighth seed, the Richmond Spiders.
If Davidson can edge past Richmond, it will be the second time this season that the ‘Cats have bested the Spiders in the Richmond Coliseum and a historical first tournament win for the ‘Cats since joining the A-10 conference in 2014. In a matchup earlier this season, the ‘Cats got the best of Richmond in a final score of 68 to 65. Though this game might not have been a large enough victory to give the ‘Cats any real sense of comfort, junior guard Justine Lyon ‘19 still thinks this year’s team has a great shot at making a deep run in the tournament and hopes that they can harness the confidence gained from last Saturday’s senior night victory against VCU. Lyon stated that, “the win [on Saturday] was most important because it helped us with our conference standings, but also gives us a bit of momentum going into tournament play. It was super special for our seniors, very emotional being that they got a win on their last chance to play on McKillop court, in front of a big Davidson crowd.”
For Lyon, senior night was more than just an important conference win and a chance to honor the team’s seniors. She eclipsed the thousand-point milestone of her Davidson career, an accomplishment shared by only 19 other Davidson Women’s Basketball players. And while this is certainly an impressive feat and will surely leave a lasting footprint on the program, Justine says her “mind is on something much bigger: an A-10 Championship,” with the first step being a win in Tuesday’s matchup against Richmond.
A win on Tuesday means the ‘Cats will advance to face heavy tournament favorites, the Dayton Flyers, who are 15-1 in the conference and 22-5 on the season. The Flyers won this season’s conference matchup against the Wildcats with a score of 85 to 68 and are looking to repeat their 2016 A-10 championship victory and secure a spot in the NCAA tournament for back-to-back seasons. Dayton is undoubtedly the most skilled team that the ‘Cats might face and will make tough competition for any team in this year’s tournament, so a win against them means that anything is possible going forward.
Other teams looking to contend include Duquesne, who was 13-3 in conference this season, Fordham, who finished 12-4, and George Mason, who finished 11-5. Duquesne is seeded second, the highest seed in program history, and has, along with Dayton, already secured their trip to the A-10 tournament in Richmond with a first round bye. On the other side of the bracket, Fordham hosts No. 14 seed Rhode Island while George Mason hosts No. 13 seed St. Bonaventure. These three teams contributed to nearly half of the Wildcats’ nine losses in conference regular season, which means there is no easy road in any corner of this year’s bracket.
Regardless of Tuesday’s result, the Wildcats should be pleased with the signs of progress that they have shown this season. Compared to last season, the ‘Cats doubled their overall wins while improving their conference wins by three, demonstrating an extremely positive trajectory for the program. Reflecting on the season, Lyon says this year has been about change. “The team has been focused on developing a new culture and image for the program. We have already found so much success and have no intention of slowing down… we want to make history.”
The ‘Cats will definitely have their chance to make history with a win on Tuesday night and hope to put their game to the ultimate test in Friday’s second round game against the No. 1 seeded, Dayton Flyers.
Though the ‘Cats fell tonight to the Richmond spiders by a mark of 53 to 62, the game was not representative of their season as a whole. The team consistently showed resilience through unprecedented emotion, come-from-behind victories, and cohesion of young talent and senior leadership. The seniors on this team will certainly be missed in the following years, but this season has shown the great talent in this year’s first-year class as well as tremendous coaching from new Head Coach Gayle Coats Fulkes. There is much to be excited about, and the future is very bright in the years to come for Wildcat basketball.