The players all closed their eyes for a few moments Friday afternoon at the Times Union Center. Senior guard Andrea Hoover held her arms in the air and pointed one finger on each hand toward the roof. Most of the Flyers stood as still as statues with their hands on their hips.
For the Dayton women’s basketball team, this seemed to be one last moment of peace and calm before one last practice before another crazy weekend of March Madness.
There will be no moments of zen at 2:30 p.m. today when the No. 7 seed Flyers (27-6) play No. 3 seed Louisville (27-6) in the Sweet 16.
Dayton likes to play fast. Louisville likes to press. That combination should make for a fun game and a memorable one.
Considering this is the first Sweet 16 appearance for the Flyers, it would not be a stretch to call this the most important game in UD history.
“We want to have that mentality that we are not just happy to be here,” Hoover said. “We want to win.”
The Cardinals recorded 24 steals — most in an NCAA tournament game in Louisville history — in their 86-53 victory over Brigham Young in the first round. They rank 41st in the nation with 10.5 steals per game.
Four of Louisville’s last six opponents have committed 20 or more tournovers. BYU had 30. South Florida had 16 in a 60-52 loss to Louisville in the second round Monday.
The Flyers know they will have to take care of the ball. They think having seen another pressure defense Sunday will help. No. 2 seed Kentucky had 11 steals and forced 24 turnovers, but Dayton prevailed 99-94 in Lexington, Ky.
“We pretty much knew what we were going to see,” Dayton coach Jim Jabir said, “and we got what we knew we were going to see. With Louisville, you’re going to see pressure, but it’s going to come at you in different ways. It could be a trap out of a zone. It could be a trap on a ball screen. It could be a man press. It could be a zone press. We have to be very aware of what’s going on around us because it’s going to change quite often.”
The Flyers counter with what Jabir calls a hybrid offense modeled on the old Phoenix Suns offense favored by coach Mike D’Antoni when Steve Nash ran the point.
“We set a lot of drag screens in the open court,” Jabir said. “We want to score quickly. We’re capable of running offense when we have to. We do take a lot of 3s. We’re opportunistic. We’re unselfish. At any point, any kid can go off. We share the ball well, and we want to put pressure on our opponent on both ends of the floor if we’re capable.”
Dayton averages 76.5 points per game. The Flyers are 23-1 when scoring 70 or more points.
Louisville gives up 57.7 points per agme. It allowed 70 or more points once this season in a 77-75 overtime loss to North Carolina. In 24 games, Louisville had held opponents under 60 points.
“We are going to play our game,” Jabir said. “We are not going to back down from anyone. We are going to do what we do. If they punch us in the nose, we are going to get right back up. We are not going to be intimidated.”