RICHMOND, Va. – Erin Rooney scored 13 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and Fordham took the lead with an 11-2 second-half run Sunday and beat top-seeded Dayton 63-51 for the Atlantic 10 women's basketball championship.
Abigail Corning added 12 points and 11 rebounds and Emily Tapio had 10 points and 12 rebounds for the Rams (25-7, 12-5), who earned the league's automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. It will be just the second NCAA berth for the Rams; the first came when they won the Patriot League title in 1994.
League player of the year Andrea Hoover scored 22 points for the Flyers (23-7, 14-3), but Dayton's last points came on a basket by Celeste Edwards with 5:23 to play. The regular season champions will need an at-large invitation to reach to the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight season.
The Rams, the third seed, outrebounded Dayton 30-13 in the second half.
Mary Nwachukwu, who took just one shot in the first half, scored all eight of her points in the 11-2 run that took the Rams from a 41-38 deficit to a 49-43 lead with 11:32 to play. Nwachukwu hit three long jumpers and a pair of free throws. Rooney also scored inside and Tapio added a free throw to the burst.
The Flyers closed to within 51-47 on two free throws by Hoover and a 17-footer by Ally Malott sandwiched around Danielle Burns' inside basket for the Rams, but Corning scored inside for Fordham, was fouled and converted the three-point play. Then Samantha Clark beat the shot clock with another basket for the Rams.
That rebuilt the margin to 56-47. After Hoover's left-handed layup and Edwards' basket pulled the Flyers back within 56-51, Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley called a timeout. The Rams regrouped and clamped down on defense, and the increasingly desperate Flyers failed to convert another shot in the game.
The outcome marked a reversal from the team's regular season meeting at Dayton, Ohio. The Flyers eventually came away from that one 73-64 winners, but the game featured 16 lead changes and nine ties.
Dayton led almost throughout the first half until three Fordham players hit 3-pointers in a span of 1:04. Abilgail Corning's 12 footer capped an 11-3 run that gave the Rams their first lead at 29-27.
Amber Dean'e layup and a free throw by Malott gave the Flyers a 30-29 lead at halftime.
Follow Hank on twitter at: http://twitter.com/hankkurzjr