The Dayton Flyers women’s basketball team entered Monday night’s Elite-Eight NCAA game as a 33-and a half point underdog. For the first twenty minutes of the game it looked as it could be the upset of the ages. But the University of Connecticut Huskies, who trailed at the half, would not oblige, advancing to the Final Four with a 90-51 victory at the Times Union Center in Albany before a crowd of 7,687.
“It’s everything you could imagine for us,” UConn coach Gino Auriemma said. “When we are challenged, sometimes that is when we are at our best. We came out of the half with a good mind set and we’re happy to be a getting a third-straight trip to the final four.”
Things didn’t look very promising for UConn in the early going. The Flyers led 44-43 at the half, while UConn missed seven of their last eight shots going into intermission.
Seventh-seeded Dayton( took it to UConn right off the opening tip. They made their first four 3-pointers and hit seven of the their first 10 shots from beyond the arc. They shot 51 percent from the field and and 7-for-10 from 3-point range.
“We sure showed them (UConn) we were not afraid,” said Dayton coach Jim Jabir. “We hit our shots and gave it all that we could. You can’t ask to play much better than we did in the first half.”
The first half featured 10 ties and 15 lead changes, something the Huskies are not accustomed to. While UConn opened up a five-point lead (43-38) when Breanna Stewart hit two free-throws, the Flyers answered scoring the final six points before the half ended.
It was the first time UConn had trailed in the half dating back to 2013 in the Big East Final. But that didn’t faze the Huskies. Dayton’s 44 points is the most points UConn has allowed an opponent in the first half dating back to a game against DePaul in 2008.
“We needed to play better on defense and come out with the same goal we had at the beginning of the game,” Auriemma said. “And that was to get back to the final four.”
Dayton opened the half with three turnovers and two missed shots allowing UConn to score the first nine points and take the lead for good 53-44 with 15:40 left to play. Dayton stayed with UConn and got within 64-57 with just under ten minutes to play, but the Flyers were running out of gas and the Huskies went on a torrid 19-2 run to put the game out of reach with five minutes left to play.
The run was highlighted by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who broke the record for NCAA 3-point goals with 393. It was her fifth 3-pointer of the night and she finished with seven.
Lewis led all scorers with 27 points, while Stewart had a typical performance with 23 points and 16 rebounds and Morgan Tuck had 23 points for the Huskies (36-1). Ally Malott led Dayton with 14 points, all of which came in the first half.
Jabir, who was the head coach at Siena from 1987-90, couldn’t be disappointed with the loss. “We hung around for a long time and competed and competed, ” Jabir said. “They (UConn) are the best team in the country and just wore us down.”
The Huskies advance to their eighth straight final four and will face Maryland in Tampa, Fl. on Sunday.
Dayton season ended on its first Elite Eight appearance. The Flyers were the fourth No. 7 seed to advance to the regional final since 1994.