Coach Jim Jabir posted a photo of himself to Twitter on Sunday night after a 99-94 victory over Kentucky. In the image, he doesn’t look terribly excited as his Dayton women’s basketball players celebrate on the bench in the background.
Obviously, the photo didn’t capture Jabir’s joy at reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time on his team’s sixth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.
“How do they get these shots?” Jabir wrote. “I promise I did smile … when the final buzzer sounded!”
Making the big dance has become almost a birthright for Jabir and the Flyers. Staying in the tournament past the first weekend is a new experience.
After upsetting the No. 2 seed Wildcats in Lexington, Ky., No. 7 seed Dayton (27-6) will play No. 3 seed Louisville (27-6) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y.
Jabir hopes the team’s attitude stays the same even as it chases history.
“The last two games, it didn’t feel like the NCAA Tournament for the first time,” Jabir said. “It just felt like we were in a regular tournament, a regular-season game. I thought that’s how we played. I want to go into Albany with the same feeling. It’s just a basketball game. Let’s go play.”
Dayton improved to 4-17 against Kentucky. It is 5-8 against Louisville and 0-1 against each of the two possible opponents in the regional final, Texas and Connecticut.
Louisville ranks 12th in the nation in turnover margin (plus 5.3), forcing 20.1 per game. The Flyers average 15.8 but overcame 24 turnovers to beat Kentucky.
“They’re going to throw a lot of stuff at us,” Jabir said of Louisville. “They’re going to try to take away our best players. They’re going to run really good offense. Then they’re going to have counters. If they run a set and we blow it up, (coach Jeff Walz) is going to have a counter for it and he’ll get us on the next one. We’re going to have to be on our toes and have to handle pressure and not be intimidated by physicality and all those things.”
The regional championship game is set for 7 p.m. Monday.