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- Jackie Benitez Leaving Siena
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- Postgame Comments Following Siena Semifinal Win Over Monmouth
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Second Half Surge Sends UConn To 8th Straight Final Four
- Updated: March 31, 2015
Despite a formidable effort from a fearless Dayton team, UConn flexed its muscles in the second half to roll on to their 8th straight Final Four with a 91-70 win in the NCAA Albany Regional Final. Despite trailing at halftime for the first time in two season, the Huskies used a pair of second half runs to earn a ticket to Tampa.
“I love going to the Final Four,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. ”I don’t care how many times it is, what the total number is. I love it for the fact that some of my players have never been there. When you get a chance to go, you feel like you did something pretty significant. We did it over and over again. Some kids don’t get to go once.”
The first half was one of the more entertaining halves of basketball you’ll ever going to see as the upstart Flyers came out firing, hitting 18-35 (51.4%) of their total field goal attempts and a blistering 7-10 from three-point range. They had an answer for everything the nine-time national champions threw at them as they showed no signs of backing down. Senior Ally Malott scored 14 first-half points hitting all four of her shots beyond the three-point arc, to lead her team to a 44-43 lead heading into the break.
Despite 7th seed Dayton’s impressive challenge to the top-ranked Huskies, one couldn’t help but wonder when and if UConn would exert the dominance they had displayed over their first three opponents in the tournament. For a team who had never trailed at the half in an NCAA Tournament game and who had won the first three games of this tournament by an average of nearly 43 points, a second half surge seemed inevitable.
The Huskies showed no sign of panic as they opened up the second half with a 9-0 run. They soon extended the lead to 13 but a pair of Dayton threes cut the margin back down to seven points, 62-55 with 10:39 to go in the game. Dayton would stay within 7 with just under 10 minutes to go but UConn would have no more as they exploded for a 19-2 run, fueled by a partisan crowd of 7,686, that put the Flyers away for good.
“When we’re challenged, sometimes that’s when we’re at our best, and that’s what we talked about in the locker room and I couldn’t be prouder of them and happier for them … especially tonight against a great, great team,” Auriemma said. “That’s one of the best teams we’ve faced in the last 5 years.”
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis led the Huskies (36-1) with a game-high 27 points shooting 9-18 overall and 7-10 from three-point range. Hitting the 393rd three-pointer of her career, she set a new NCAA record. Breanna Stewart scored 23 points with a game-high 16 rebounds and Morgan Tuck also added 23 points. Moriah Jefferson was also in double figures with 10 points along with 6 assists.
For Dayton (28-7) who was making their first ever Elite 8 appearance, five players finished in double figures. Senior Ally Malott led the Flyers scoring 14 points all in the first half, including a 4-for-6 night from behind the arc. Senior Andrea Hoover scored 13 points and dished out 4 assists. Sophomore Saicha Grant-Allen added 12 points and junior Kelly Austria chipped in 11 points and five assists while freshman Jenna Burdette scored 10 points.
“Really proud of our guys, we competed, weren’t intimidated,” Dayton coach Jim Jabir said. “They are the best team in the country, bar none. For a long time we hung around and hung around. I couldn’t be more proud, this was a great day.”
NCAA Albany Regional All-Tournament Team
Breanna Stewart, Jr., UConn Forward
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Sr., UConn Forward
Morgan Tuck, RS So., UConn Guard
Andrea Hoover, Sr., Dayton Guard
Ally Malott, Sr. Dayton Forward
Most Outstanding Player Breanna Stewart, Jr., UConn Forward