Women’s basketball loses Atlantic 10 semi-finals, advances to WNIT

Head coach Beth O’Boyle coaches players from the sidelines against Dayton University on March 5. Photos courtesy of Greg Fiume and the Atlantic-10

Arrick Wilson, Sports Editor

The VCU women’s basketball program fell short in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 conference tournament. 

The Rams did not get a bid to the Women’s National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, tournament, but the black and gold did earn a bid in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, or “WNIT.” On Friday, the Rams will face the former team of VCU head coach Beth O’Boyle, the Stony Brook Seawolves, at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in the first round of the WNIT.

O’Boyle stated the team is looking to end the season on a high note competing in the WNIT.

“Our focus right now is competing in the WNIT and trying to win that,” O’Boyle stated. “We want to finish our season on a win and we want to take advantage of playing some really good teams in the WNIT and build on it.”

O’Boyle stated in an email how pleased she was with the team this season.

“I’m really proud of the way our players and staff have handled the adversity this year,

it was definitely challenging,” O’Boyle stated. “We’re looking forward to a great opportunity in the WNIT and hopefully have the ability to keep playing and keep winning games.”

Graduate guard Taya Robinson was chosen for the A-10 All-Championship Team, as she averaged 22 points over the two games that the black and gold played. Robinson stated in an email how she was going to give everything for her team in the tournament.

“I’m going to give it all I’ve got not just for myself, but for our team and coaches. It’s sad to think about my college career coming to an end soon but I’m just going to make sure I work as hard as I can to make sure it’s not over until that first week in April,” Robinson stated.

On March 4, the first game of the tournament for the Rams, the black and gold faced off against the No. 12 ranked George Washington University and won 55-47. Robinson led the Rams with 19 points, six rebounds and three assists. Sophomore guard Sarah Te-Biasu had 17 points and three assists. Te-Biasu stated in an email coming to play was essential for not only her, but the team.

“I was really confident during the game. I tried to make sure everyone was involved and everyone stepped up too,” Te-Biasu stated.

The duo carried the black and gold, both playing 37 minutes, while combining for 36 points in all four quarters of the game.

“GW [George Washington] had played two games before we played them so we knew they would come out strong,” Robinson stated. “In the third quarter my teammates did a good job of finding me open, I just had to finish the shots.”

For the George Washington Colonials, junior guard Sheslanie Laureano led with 15 points, and graduate guard Kyara Frames, additionally added 11 points. Redshirt junior Mayowa Taiwo grabbed 13 rebounds, while contributing eight points for the Colonials. 

The Colonials led the Rams 25-21 at the halfway point of the game. In the first quarter, the Rams gained the lead Te-Biasu led with seven early points. Te-Biasu’s points led the Rams, but the Colonials came back in the second quarter, taking the lead. While the Colonials successfully scored points, the Rams struggled on defense, allowing 16 points in the second quarter alone. 

In response to the defense allowing points from the second quarter, head coach Beth O’Boyle had the team doing drills at halftime. These drills paid off, as the Rams came back in the third quarter to take the lead back, 36-31. Robinson scored 11 points for the black and gold in the third quarter alone. It was the Taya Robinson show, as the Richmond, Virginia native came alive in the third quarter.

“Taya [Robinson] and Sarah [Te-Biasu] both had a great third quarter and gave us a lift on the offensive side but their teammates did a great job in helping set up some of those opportunities,”  O’Boyle stated.

In the final quarter, the Colonials came back into the game going on an 8-0 run while taking the lead, with a score of 42-40. The Rams outscored George Washington, 15-7 over the last six minutes of the game. With this win, the black and gold advanced to the A-10 semifinals versus No. 1 Dayton Flyers.

On March 5, in the quarterfinal game versus the No. 1 Dayton Flyers, the Rams lost 59-48. Robinson led the Rams with 25 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Te-Biasu also chipped in the second-highest amount for the Rams with 10 points. 

The Rams fell to the Flyers just after defeating the same team in the regular season on Feb. 13 with a score of 60-58. Robinson stated how bad it felt to lose to the Flyers in the semi-finals.

“It sucked to be honest. Every game in the A-10 Tournament is going to be tough,” Robinson stated. “No matter what happened in the regular season we knew it would be difficult.”

Flyers graduate forward Erin Whalen led with 20 points and five rebounds off of five three-pointers. Makira Cook added 12 points and three rebounds, while senior Kyla Whitehead scored seven points and had six rebounds.

Robinson was critical from the black and gold, leading the Rams with a team-high in points. The sixth-year senior may have led the Rams in points, but she couldn’t get it done as the Rams conference tournament ended with the Dayton loss. 

The black and gold trailed the Flyers 15-7 at the end of the first quarter. The Rams struggled to get the ball in the basket, shooting 20% from the field. The Flyers continued their dominance into the second quarter, adding 15 points to their lead. 

The Flyers led the Rams 30-19 at halftime. Robinson was the standout for the Rams, having 11 points — the only player to score in double digits. Te-Biasu stated how it was to go head-to-head with Dayton, as their teams battled before.

The Rams did rally in the third quarter, coming out hot, as VCU outscored Dayton 12-9. This  start narrowed the lead to eight points, ending the quarter 39-31. The team’s lead did not last long as the Flyers scored 20 points solely in the fourth quarter, eliminating the Rams from the A-10 conference championship tournament.

“The whole game, both teams were fighting and it was really back and forth. I know we were the defending champion so we had to give everything we got,” Te-Biasu stated. “It was frustrating to lose, but overall, I think we fought really hard.”

The Rams will host the first round WNIT home game against the Stony Brook Seawolves Friday at 6 p.m., at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. For ticket information, visit vcuathletics.com. The game will be televised on ESPN+.

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