The No. 7 seed Flyers (28-7) almost gained the love of the entire college basketball world — at the least the world outside Storrs, Conn. They led top-seeded Connecticut (36-1) 44-43 at halftime.
The Huskies hadn’t trailed at halftime since March 12, 2013, against Notre Dame. They have been outscored in a half only 18 times in their last 301 halves.
The final score didn’t shock anyone — the Flyers were 33-point underdogs — but there’s no doubt that halftime score brought many new viewers to the ESPN broadcast.
Dayton shot 51 percent from the field in the first half (18 of 35) and 70 percent from 3-point range (7 of 10). Malott made 4 of 4 3-pointers in the first half. Dayton ended the half on a 6-0 run in the last 3:02.
“I had to calm myself down a little bit,” Jabir said. “I was pumped. We were getting shots. We were making buckets. I thought defensively I would have liked to see us compete a little more on the boards and be more physical. I thought we’re not going to be able to shoot it like this in the second half. We were on fire. I knew they would make adjustments.”
The Huskies wasted little time taking control of the game in the second half. Dayton turned the ball over on its first two possessions. Connecticut opened the half with a 9-0 run and extended its lead by dominating the boards (41-31) and outscoring Dayton 14-4 at the free-throw line.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis led the Huskies with 27 points. Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart each scored 27.
Malott and Hoover scored 14 and 13, respectively, for the Flyers in their final game. Malott had a big smile as she hugged Jabir as she left the court. This was not a sad moment.
“I was just so proud of our team,” Malott said. “I don’t think we have anything to hang our heads about. Obviously, we would have loved to have won and gone to the Final Four, but I don’t think anybody expected us to get this far.”