There are mountains all around Albany — south in the Catskills or east in Vermont — much smaller than the peak the Dayton Flyers will try to conquer Monday.
A date with two-time defending national champion Connecticut looms for the No. 7 seed Flyers in the Elite Eight. That’s their reward for beating No. 3 seed Louisville 82-66 on Saturday in the Sweet 16 at the Times Union Center.
“I have the utmost respect for UConn,” Dayton senior Andrea Hoover said. “They’re a great team. Every NCAA team wants to be like them. It’s an honor and a privilege to play them in the NCAA tournament. We’re just going to give them our best shot.”
Dayton (28-6) will play the No. 1 seed Huskies (35-1) at 7 p.m. Monday in Albany. Connecticut recorded its most lopsided Sweet 16 victory ever in the first regional semifinal Saturday, beating No. 5 seed Texas 105-54.
The Flyers and Huskies have played once. When Hoover and fellow senior Ally Malott were freshmen, they lost 78-38 to the Huskies on Nov. 27, 2011, in Storrs, Conn.
Dayton coach Jim Jabir paused for six seconds before he answered the question of how well his team matches up with Connecticut.
Jabir used to coach against Connecticut regularly when he was at Providence and remembers losing by 60-something one season. That 2011 loss stands out, too.
“We spent an hour and a half after the game in the locker room talking about what we saw,” Jabir said. “Everything they did was so much quicker, so much faster, so much stronger. They executed so well. It changed our season. It turned our season around.”
Big game: Dayton held Louisville to 31.5 percent shooting and won the rebounding battle 41-39. Junior center Jodie Cornélie-Sigmundová played a big part in that. She had 12 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
“I think Jodie played one of the best games she’s ever played tonight,” Malott said. “She was so strong defensively. Her being in there affects shots even if she doesn’t get a block. She knocks down open shots. She was really crucial for us.”
Elite again: The University of Dayton has now sent the men’s and women’s teams to the Elite Eight in consecutive seasons.
“I couldn’t let Archie (Miller) go to the Elite Eight without us chasing him,” Jabir said. “I’m a little competitive. It means everything. If you’re a basketball coach and you care about your craft, then this is the ultimate goal.”
Family moment: Jabir’s kids joined him on the court after the game for an emotional moment.
“For the second game in a row, my daughter Lauren grabbed me,” Jabir said. “I don’t know if she’s crying or laughing. I just hear sobs. I asked her, ‘What is it?’ She said, ‘I don’t know.’ She was happy. They grew up following me around in practice gyms and on buses. To have this moment with them only seems right.”
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