4GuysinBlazers

NCAA’s Finest On Display In Albany Women’s Regional

uconn jump

The finest that NCAA women’s basketball has to offer was on display at the Times Union Center in Albany on Saturday afternoon as the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and Siena College co-hosted the regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. UConn and Dayton were victorious and they advance to the Elite 8 on Monday night when they will compete for the chance to go to the Final Four.

The two games could not have been more different, yet each was entertaining in its own way. A crowd of 8,259 turned out on a snowy Spring day and they were not disappointed.

In the first game, the nine-time National Champion No. 1 UConn Huskies and legendary coach Geno Auriemma rolled over No. 5 Texas 105-54 to advance to the Elite 8 for the 10th straight season. With the victory, Hall of Famer Auriemma became just the second coach in men’s or women’s basketball to win 100 NCAA Tournament games. He trails only Pat Summitt, who finished with 112 victories in her career.

After the game, when asked if he would be able to recall all 100, Auriemma said if given a little time he could, because each tournament win is so special.

”That’s lots of wins, 100 wins in the NCAA tournament,” Auriemma said. ”Some people don’t get to play in the NCAA tournament ever or play a couple games. We’ve been pretty fortunate. We didn’t win anything in the NCAA in our first couple years.”

The game itself was one of pure dominance. Although it started out competitive as UConn (35-1) led 26-19 with 9:36 to go in the first half. The Huskies then flexed their muscle, scoring 13 straight points to launch a  44-9 run that carried over into the second half.

The Huskies’ offensive firepower was simply just too much for the Longhorns to handle. After leading 52-24 at the half, UConn scored 18 points in less that three and a half minutes and by the 16:42 mark they led 70-28.

While it was not much in the way of a competitive game, it did display just how dominant the UConn team can be. The Huskies shot 39-70 (55.7%) from the field, 13-31 (41.9%) from three-point range and 14-15 (93.3%) from the free-throw line.

”Like I said to the coaching staff at Texas, when you shoot the ball as well as we did, we’re a really hard team to play against,” Auriemma said.

All five starters finished in double figures led by Breanna Stewart with a game-high  31 points shooting 11-16 from the field. She added 12 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals before heading to the bench with 9 minutes remaining with the game well in hand. Moriah Jefferson had 25 points hitting 10-12 field goals while dishing out 6 assists. Morgan Tuck had 14 points, Kia Nurse 13 and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 10.

”(Today) was a lot of fun,” Stewart said. ”Right from the start shots were going in and we were being aggressive. … Texas has a big presence inside, big post players. We knew if we got them moving a little bit, we could get any shot we wanted.”

Ariel Atkins was the only player in double figures for  Texas who finishes their season at 24-11. The Longhorns were held to just 22-64 (34.4%) shooting from the field overall and just 3-13 (23.1%) from beyond the arc. UConn scored 22 points off of 18 Longhorn turnovers.

 

The second game of the afternoon was everything that is fun about NCAA basketball. No. 7 Dayton upset No. 3 seed Louisville, 82-66 to advance to the program’s first ever appearance in the Elite 8.

“This is a great day,” said Dayton coach Jim Jabir. “I wanna say I’m overwhelmed but I”m not cause our guys have continually stepped up and matured and handled themselves better and better with every challenge. The challenges keep getting bigger and bigger.”

The game was tight throughout the first half and while Louisville managed to open up an 18-11 lead 10 minutes in, the lead would change 3 times as Dayton carried a 30-29 advantage heading into halftime despite committing 14 turnovers.

“I came in and I tried to break it up a little bit, a little levity and I said, ‘Look I know the bird  (Louisville Cardinal mascot) is red (Dayton colors red and blue), but he’s got a yellow beak. I told them the only person with a bigger beak that that bird was me and I wasn’t playing. They laughed at that and then we were able to chill out a little bit.”

With a block of boisterous fans and an entertaining pep band whose leader was equipped with comical props while donning a red and blue blazer complete with sequins and led lights, the Flyers won over the Times Union Center crowd as they went on an 11-2 run early in the second half.

dayton band

For Dayton, which beat No. 2 seed Kentucky in the second round, the run gave them the momentum they needed to became just the fourth No. 7 seed to advance to a regional final since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1994, and the first since Mississippi in 2007.

Senior guard Andrea Hoover led the way with a game-high 23 points for Dayton (28-6).  She shot an NCAA Tournament record 15-for-15 from the free throw line.  Amber Deane had  15 points and Jodie Cornelie-Sigmundova added 12 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks for the Flyers.  The win was Dayton’s 11th in the last 12 games.

”As the buzzer went off, I couldn’t find enough people to hug,” Hoover said. ”We’ve been working so hard for these goals, and now our program is at new levels.”

”I thought the Kentucky game was the best day,” Jabir said. ”And now I think this is the best day and not just because it’s a trip to the Elite Eight. I think we rose to an occasion.”

Myisha Hines-Allen scored 14 of her points, all in the second half to lead Louisville (27-7).  Bria Smith added 12 points and Jude Schimmel had 11 points shooting just 4-23 from the field.

Jim Jabir once served as the head coach at Siena for three seasons (1987-90) where he compiled a record of 50-29. As the final horn sounded, he ran toward the stands to giving thanks to the Dayton fans and then shared a touching moment with his family following the biggest win of his coaching career.

“They grew up in gyms, following me around in practice gyms and on buses so to be able to have tis moment with them only seems right,” Jabir said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them. They’re great kids and it’s just a great thing to share with your family.

“It means everything,” said Jabir on advancing this far. “If you’re a basketball coach and you really, really care about your craft and what you do, then this is the ultimate goal. Getting to this point is what every coach should want to achieve. This is what happens when you bring good people together and they all believe in the common goal.”

When asked about responding to Louisville’s “best punch” Jabir joked,”Is that when we threw it to their mascot twice? We’re very inclusive. We like to share the ball and we thought the mascot should enjoy some of that as well.”

“They did make a run and I called a time out at that point to say, ‘Hey settle down’,” Jabir said. “We’ve been telling them on this whole journey that this is hard. It’s called the Elite 8 not the Elite 80. I said this is the hard part right now. They just punched you. Step up or go home like right now. And, they responded.”

 

dayton mascot

Rudy the Dayton Flyer

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