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Women's basketball hopes to find first win against Dayton


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Freshman center Jahari Smith keeps the offensive rebound from two Buffalo defenders on Feb. 2 in McGuirk Arena.

Freshman forward Shine Strickland-Gills stood at one free-throw line with her sophomore counterpart Jahari Smith at the other. 

The rest of the Chippewas, dressed in alternating maroon and gold practice attire, jogged into the adjoining gym. Each Chippewa used their own rim and spent the last five minutes of practice on free throws. 

As coach Heather Oesterle jogged by the media she offered a smile and quick wave. 

It was clear that the road trip that saw the Chippewas fall by double digits in each game was in the rearview mirror. 

"We're still a really good team," Oesterle said. "This is a great time to learn what we need to get better at." 

The Chippewas lost 76-63 at Louisville and 93-58 at Western Kentucky. Both games were single-digit contests at the half before the opponents pulled away. 

"We're being exposed in a couple of areas," Oesterle added. "That needs to be fixed in the next couple of games."

Smith shares the same sentiments.

"It was a tough road trip and we have to let that go," Smith said. "It's still just one game at a time."

On Thursday, the Chippewas host the Dayton Flyers, who come into the game with a 3-1 record. The Flyers have double-digit wins over Northeastern and Toledo, who are teams the Chippewas will face in the future.

Oesterle highlighted the prowess of the Flyers on the boards and defensively as areas of focus. She stressed the importance of limiting turnovers and improving on the glass as keys to winning the game. 

Jayla Scaife, a 5-foot-10 senior guard, has become a dual-threat leader for the Flyers. She is tied for the team lead in scoring while and is third in rebounds, which could make things a struggle for the Chippewas who start three guards all under 5-foot-10.

The undersized Chippewas might use speed to their advantage, something they did well in the loss to Louisville. In that game, junior guard Micaela Kelly scored 23 points and kept the team within striking distance against the Cardinals who were taller at every position. 

The contest against the Flyers serves as the annual "Hoops for Hunger" game and will tip-off at noon. It will be the Chippewas' earliest start of the season; however, Oesterle isn't worried about the challenge of starting so early. 

"We're gonna have 4,000 screaming kids in here," Oesterle said. "If you don't get pumped up for that I don't know if you have a pulse. Our players, they'll be ready to play."

Oesterle also noted that the game was for a "great cause."

The contest with the Flyers tips off a four-game homestand that will feature two teams ranked in the Mid-Major top 25 poll.

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