Dayton not sneaking up on UConn
UConn did not make it to the last seven Final Fours by counting their victories before they took place.
The Huskies and their coaches are fully aware that most people are expecting a similar score to the 105-54 beat down of Texas when the top-seeded Huskies meet No. 7 seed Dayton in the Albany Regional finale.
Dayton has 23 games with more turnovers than assists this season and lost three times to George Washington. On paper it looks very much like yet another UConn blowout. However, the UConn players have been reminded on multiple occasions that Dayton was supposed to lose to second-seeded Kentucky and certainly had to be considered the underdogs in the regional semifinal against No. 3 seed Louisville. Yet, here are the Flyers in the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.
UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph, who had the scouting responsibility for the Albany Regional final, saw a grittiness in the Dayton players that she couldn't help but admire.
"The biggest thing with them is that they can score," Ralph said. "They are tough kids. Four of them (starters) can shoot 3s, they run ball screen offense and if you make a mistake they score. At this point of the year we are not going to face a team that is not any good, they deserve to be here, they are a great team."
UConn senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has few memories from the game the Huskies played against Dayton when she was a freshman even if she did drop 23 points on the Flyers as the Huskies won 78-38 in the only previous meeting between the teams.
However, Mosqueda-Lewis said the Flyers have the Huskies complete and undivided attention with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
"They have been overlooked and have continued to prove themselves by beating teams that people didn't think they could beat," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "For us, we are not going to overlook them and think 'it is just Dayton, maybe they got lucky.' They haven't, they have been playing great throughout the tournament."
Teammate Morgan Tuck echoed Mosqueda-Lewis' sentiments.
"They play really hard and they kind of play with a chip on their shoulder because a lot of people underestimate them and are going to underestimate them because they are Dayton and that means they are not as good," Tuck said. "I think they are playing with that chip that 'we are going to let people know who we are and make our name out there.'"
With Dayton expected to start a pair of 6-4 players, the Flyers do have some size to throw at the Huskies but it is a much different style of play from the post players than what the Huskies faced against Texas.
"The biggest difference is they have post players who can play outside and aren't really just post players so I think it will be a much different look than the Texas post players did," Tuck said.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma said the Dayton's style reminded him of a Green Bay team that was tied with the Huskies with 5 1/2 minutes left in the first half in a game earlier this season. UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey sees similarities to another team the UConn fans might be more familiar with.
"It is a different kind of a style," Dailey said. "It reminds me of us in some ways, they play hard, they execute, they make 3s and have guys who come in off the bench and make 3s. They are a good team, a really good team."
Dayton also starts two seniors and two juniors. That experience was a major factor against a Louisville team whose top two scorers during the regular season where freshmen.
"Anytime you have experience it is an advantage, it just helps you become better prepared for games," Dailey said. "I think it helps because the experience and the older players on the court are like an extension of the coach, you know there is not a lot that is going to happen that you aren't going to prepared for and that allows your team to flow freely."