By: Steve Miller – Asst. Sports Editor
It was a tale of two halves for the Dayton Flyers as they fell to the University of Connecticut (UConn) 91-70 in the Elite Eight of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament tonight.
It was the first Elite Eight appearance for the seventh-seeded Flyers as they took on the No. 1 overall-seeded Huskies, but Dayton came out in the first half ready to battle UConn for a spot in the Final Four.
Senior forward Ally Malott established her presence in the opening minutes, draining two 3-point shots in the first 3:31 of the game. She was four for four from beyond the arc in the first half with 14 total points.
Dayton matched UConn basket-for-basket and drive-for-drive in the first half, hitting seven of 10 3-point attempts, and shooting more than 50 percent from the floor.
Senior guard Andrea Hoover hit two clutch 3-pointers on her way to eight points in the half.
Junior guard Kelley Austria’s layup with 1:20 in the first half gave UD the 44-43 advantage, and the Flyers carried that lead into the locker room—handing UConn their first halftime deficit since 2013.
The Flyers’ 44 first-half points against the Huskies were the most points any opponent of Connecticut had scored in the first half of a game since March of 2008, when DePaul University scored 47.
In the second half, UConn came out like a number one team again, driving to the paint and forcing several Flyer fouls in the opening minutes.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the Huskies’ star senior forward, continued her first-half string of 3-point shots, draining two more in the first eight minutes of the second. With her fifth 3-pointer of the game, Mosqueda-Lewis broke the NCAA women’s record for career 3-pointers. She finished the game with seven triples.
As offensive and defensive rebounds piled up for the Huskies, they built a lead on Dayton. With 7:30 left in the game, Connecticut’s lead stood at 74-59.
Meanwhile, the officiating crew gave the Flyers no leeway. Hoover collected four fouls with more than seven minutes remaining and sat out for a short time, dimming hopes for a Dayton comeback.
When she did return, however, Hoover finished her career off with five more points including one three-pointer. She finished the game with 13 total points.
Three Huskies finished with 20 plus points. Forwards Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck recorded 23 for UConn, and Mosqueda-Lewis led all scorers with 27.
Five Flyers scored in double digits. Ally Malott led the way with 14, Hoover had 13, junior center Jodie Cornelie-Sigmundova hit 12, Austria had 11 and first-year guard Jenna Burdette finished with 10.
Connecticut advances to their 16th Final Four in program history and their eighth consecutive National Semifinal appearance. They were National Champions in 2013 and 2014, and have won the championship nine times in total.
For what it’s worth, Connecticut’s average margin of victory this season was more than 40 points. They defeated fifth-seeded University of Texas in the Sweet Sixteen by 51. UD lost by 21.
The Flyers finish the season 28-7 and the farthest NCAA tournament run the program has ever made.