By: Chris Bendel – Asst. Sports Editor
The University of Dayton women’s basketball team couldn’t capitalize on the March magic swirling around UD’s campus.
The No. 6 seed Flyers failed to advance past the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament with an 83-69 loss at the hands of the No. 11 seed University of Florida, Sunday, March 23, at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa.
The Flyers are now 2-5 all-time in the NCAA Tournament under head coach Jim Jabir, who guided UD to the team’s first tournament appearance in program history following the 2010 season.
The Flyers advanced past the first round in 2010 and 2013.
Before the first-round game against the Gators, Jabir said the team’s goal was to advance past the first weekend of play and into the Sweet 16. The milestone has eluded the Flyers despite the team’s regular season success.
“I think it would be disappointing if we don’t have at least a chance of getting through this weekend and playing another weekend,” Jabir said. “That’s been the goal of the program. That’s the next logical step to take.”
Foul trouble and poor defensive rebounding created a roadblock for the Flyers, who looked to take that “next logical step.”
After a layup in transition from sophomore guard Amber Deane, Dayton seemed to be controlling the pace of play and built a 12-point lead with 15:12 remaining in the game. The lead was the largest at the time for either side, but it didn’t last long. Florida began to close the cap and dominate play for the remainder of the game.
From the 15-minute mark on, UF outscored Dayton 47-21.
“The first three quarters of the game, it looked like we were in control and we were playing pretty well and then we hit a bump and we lost our composure,” Jabir said.
The bump Jabir referred to could be any number of possessions where UF’s aggressiveness on the offensive glass, or its success in getting uncontested layups in transition led to easy buckets for the Gators.
Either way, UD had no answer for UF in the second half.
“I’m very disappointed about that five-to-six minute span in the second half that defined the end of our season,” Jabir said. “We’ve had trouble all year playing consistently tough in stretches and it did us really hard today at a really inopportune time.”
Florida’s guards scored in transition seemingly at will, as Dayton’s defense, which held UF to 29 points in the first half, gave up 54 in the second.
“It was a lot of little things, but I think it comes back to their guy has the ball, throws a fake, drives the lane, and our guy is not there to take them on,” Jabir said. “It’s just not good enough. We gave them wide-open lanes and that’s not acceptable.”
The Flyers were out-rebounded 41-26 for the game, including the 15 offensive boards Florida grabbed, which added crucial extra possessions down the stretch.
Junior guard Andrea Hoover finished the game with a team-high 22 points but couldn’t find her groove in the second half, where she scored seven.
Foul trouble plagued the Flyers throughout the afternoon as senior center Cassie Sant and junior forward Ally Malott had their minutes severely limited by fouls early in the first half. When they returned in the second, UF hindered Dayton’s inside attack by doubling the post.
“They were definitely a really physical team and they just drove it into us and got our posts into foul trouble really early,” said Hoover. “We just didn’t answer as best as we could today and they capitalized.”
The Flyers finish the year with a record of 23-8, which includes a regular season Atlantic 10 Conference championship.