ALBANY, N.Y. -- A look at three X factors in Monday's Elite Eight game in the Albany Regional.
No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 7 Dayton
• ESPN/WatchESPN, 7 p.m. ET
Dayton's ability to get into the paint: Another Connecticut blowout or another Dayton upset likely hinges on how UConn handles Dayton's drives to the basket.
The Flyers dismantled the lauded pressure defenses of No. 2 seed Kentucky and third-seeded Louisville by sharing the ball, moving it quickly upcourt and never hesitating to dribble purposefully into the lane. The formula netted 99 points against UK and 82 against Louisville's stingy D, which had allowed just 57.7 per contest before facing Dayton.
"That's our best offense, that's our bread and butter, to get into the paint," Dayton super-sub guard Amber Deane said. "We have great shooters outside spotting up -- everyone can shoot on this team -- but if we have a lane, we're going to take a layup."
Free throws ... and fouls? To have any hope against top-ranked UConn, Dayton must keep lighting up the scoreboard. "Unless a team is capable of putting up points, they are going to have a hard time beating UConn, because [the Huskies] are going to score," said Texas coach Karen Aston, whose Longhorns were overrun 105-54 by UConn in Saturday's Sweet 16 game.
Dayton successfully drove the middle of the lane against both Kentucky and Louisville, finishing layups and drawing fouls. Those fouls led to 61 free throw attempts in two games, and the Flyers sank an astounding 54 of them. That's 89 percent, well above their solid 73 percent rate during the regular season. "It's so awesome because free throws literally make or break games," Deane said. "It's just great to see so much of our hard work pay off, all the drills we do."
In one of those drills, the team must make 20 in a row -- or run. Against Louisville, Dayton hit its first 17 foul shots, not missing one until 1:48 remained in the game. Guard Andrea Hoover made all 15 of her free throw attempts, an NCAA record, en route to a team-high 26 points.
"That means don't foul them," UConn center Kiah Stokes said. "If they're guaranteed two points every time they get to the line, it's like giving up an open layup. So be smart and don't do any dumb fouls, and definitely don't get them into the bonus."
Of course, every UConn opponent, regardless of how well it shoots from the line, wants to draw fouls on the Huskies' offensive stars, as it might be the best way to defend them.
"Any team, their game plan is probably to get me in foul trouble if they can," said UConn All-American Breanna Stewart, who poured in 31 points against Texas.
Few succeed, but Dayton will try. Going right at a star worked against Louisville, when Hoover's driving layup drew the second foul from the Cards' Myisha Hines-Allen barely two minutes into the game. Midway through the second half, a drive by Dayton's Ally Malott forced Hines-Allen's fourth foul, sending the Louisville freshman to the bench after she had scored six straight points to cut the Flyers' lead to 55-53. Malott's bucket instigated a 13-0 run, and Louisville never recovered.
Dayton's versatility: Coach Jim Jabir recruits players who can put the ball on the floor and shoot from all over the court. At various times this season, Hoover, Malott, Deane, Kelley Austria and Jenna Burdette have torched opponents from outside. When Kentucky and Louisville tried to take away the 3-pointer, lanes in the middle opened, and the Flyers took the ball to the rim.
UConn generally invites teams to attack with the dribble, funneling players into the 6-foot-4 Stewart or 6-3 shot-blocker extraordinaire Stokes. "They make things look open," Texas' Aston said, "and then you get down in there and you get stuck, and you throw up something that's not a quality shot, and it gets blocked. They do a terrific job of influencing the ball to their big people."
UConn's guards often take defensive chances outside and allow players into the lane, because they know the Huskies' bigs are backing them up. "But in a game like this, we don't want to rely on the help," Stokes said. "That's different than what we've done all season."
UConn says it can't cheat against Dayton. "Move your feet, and have elbow help," guard Moriah Jefferson said. "Any time an offense can penetrate the defense and get into the middle, it's hard to guard. So we have to make sure we take away that dribble penetration."
But the Huskies won't mind if Dayton drives baseline, where space is tighter and passing angles limited. "From the baseline, if you get beat, it's easier to let those guys go, and we know our bigs are going to step up for us," Jefferson said. "You really have to keep them out of the middle, and then at the baseline, Stewie and Kiah can have them and block shots all day."
While UConn will adjust to Dayton, the Flyers plan to keep doing what they've been doing: drive and kick, shoot the 3, exploit any openings in the middle, and hit their foul shots. "The smart money would be to play like Villanova and run the shot clock down, but we don't play that way," Jabir said. "We are going to defend and run when we can and press when we can."
Do that, he said, "and it would be a good thing for the good guys."
He wasn't talking about UConn.
espnW's pick: UConn