Luke Cyphers 941d

Analysis: UConn 91, Dayton 70

Women's College Basketball, Connecticut Huskies, Dayton Flyers

ALBANY, N.Y. -- After the wildly entertaining first half Dayton and UConn played, it seemed a shame they both couldn't go to the Final Four. But there is only one champion in women's basketball, and it's still Connecticut.

Trailing at halftime for the first time in two years, the Huskies slowed the game and took the oxygen out of the Flyers' high-octane attack for an impressive 91-70 victory Monday at the Times Union Center.

The fearless Flyers chose to run with the big dogs, and led the No. 1 Huskies 44-43 at the half. The last time UConn trailed at halftime was the 2013 Big East championship game, a loss to Notre Dame. Since then, UConn has been in a different conference, and in a different league from the rest of the country, winning the past two national championships.

The Times Union Center crowd of 7,686 saw an intense and well-played half of offensive basketball, with both teams pushing the ball at breakneck speed and shooting 3s not just with confidence but assurance, when not deftly driving to the hoop. And they took care of the ball, with just seven turnovers for Dayton and five for UConn in the half.

Without the hot shooting of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (27 points), who nailed three 3-pointers in the first half en route to becoming the NCAA's all-time leading 3-point scorer, the Huskies may have faced a real deficit.

But coach Geno Auriemma's squad adjusted, locking down the perimeter defensively and pounding the ball to its skilled bigs, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck, who combined for 46 points, which in turn opened up more looks for Mosqueda-Lewis, and booked reservations for the Final Four in Tampa, Florida, this weekend.

Key stat: Led by Ally Malott and Andrea Hoover, Dayton made seven 3-pointers in the first half, but managed only six total baskets in the first 15 minutes of the second.

Turning point: After halftime, UConn not only slowed the pace on offense, uncharacteristically walking the ball up in the early going of the second half, it ratcheted up its defense, cutting off driving lanes while also refusing Dayton good looks on the perimeter. The switch threw Dayton off rhythm, and the Flyers turned the ball over three times in their first four possessions of the half, allowing the Huskies to gain a 52-44 lead and control of the game, which they never relinquished.

Key player: Morgan Tuck. The Huskies' less heralded forward performed the dirty jobs, picking up key rebounds and loose balls, but also provided needed scoring, collecting 10 key points in the racehorse first half, and then overwhelming Dayton on the low block in the second, finishing with 23 points, 3 assists and 8 boards.

How it was won: When the Flyers showed they could hang with UConn's running game, the Huskies went physical, typified by Stewart's fullback-like drive at the 15:29 mark, on which she tucked the ball under her arm and galloped through the lane before softly laying it in with her left hand. Later, the ground-and-pound game opened things up for Mosqueda-Lewis, who converted four more 3s after halftime.

What's next: For UConn, another annual business trip to the Final Four, its eighth straight and 16th overall. The Maryland-Tennessee winner awaits, either one of which will crave the chance to dethrone the defending champs.

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