Richmond, VA -- The first game of Thursday's A-10 Women's Tournament action between the eighth seed Dayton Flyers and the ninth-seeded George Mason Patriots was supposed to feature an explosive Dayton offense powered by their prolific three-point shooting, anchored on the other end of the court by A-10 Defensive Player of the Year Jodie Cornelie-Sigmundova.
But after 20 minutes of play, Dayton finds themselves down 2 at the half, despite 4 blocks and a steal from their defensive star. The Flyers started off the contest with some sloppy play, ending two of their first three possessions with a turnover. Despite Mason's own poor shooting, the Patriots stayed ahead most of the first half due to their aggressive rebounding and their ability to get up and down the floor, scoring 12 fast break points to Dayton's none.
Foul trouble took Cornelie-Sigmundova out of the game early in the second period, and Mason responded with a 9-0 run, spurred on by tough defense and capped with guard Kara Wright's layup to put the Patriots up 24-16.
Dayton responded with a timeout, and came out of the gate ready to cut into the lead. The Flyers have to feel confident with only a two-point deficit, despite shooting only 28% from the field and 23% from three. Their performance in the second half will show whether their first half showing was just an aberration, or if the Patriots came to play lockdown defense for forty straight minutes.
Both teams started off the first half slow, with enough turnovers and missed shots to go around. The second half? An entirely different story. The two teams traded baskets possession after possession until a Kara Wright jumper sparked a 6-0 George Mason run.
Jodie Cornelie ended the Flyer's scoring drought with a jumper of her own. However, the real highlight of the third quarter was Taylor Brown going 4-5 from beyond the arc, with two of her threes coming off the dribble from about 25 feet out. The Patriot bench erupted with each make, and momentum seemed entirely in Mason's pocket.
But the Flyers weren't done quite yet. Seven straight points by guard Jenna Burdette cut the Patriot lead to single digits. The three-headed monster of Cornelie, Burdette, and A-10 Rookie of the Year Lauren Cannatelli carried the Flyers to a 10-0 run, taking advantage of a four and a half minute scoring drought from Mason.
After a George Mason layup gave the Patriots a two-point lead with 40 seconds left, Dayton had a chance to tie it up again, but Burdette couldn't connect on her layup attempt; two perfect Patriot trips to the free throw line sealed the victory, cutting Dayton's comeback short.