LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Dayton is still dancing.
The seventh-seeded Flyers advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history with a 99-94 upset of No. 2 seed Kentucky on Sunday.
Ally Malott scored 28 points and Amber Deane added 23 to keep the school around after bowing out with first-round defeats in their five previous appearances.
“It’s funny — you go to the NCAA Tournament six years in a row and you don’t get out of the first weekend (the first five times), and you start doubting yourself a little bit. What am I doing wrong and what can we do better?” Dayton coach Jim Jabir said. “Our team is very, very resilient. They really believed that we could win this game. We worked really hard to put them in a place where mentally that they believed they could.
“I really think that was the difference. I really do. They never faltered. In the timeouts, we were down 10. They knew we were gonna win the game.”
Kelley Austria made four free throws in the final 21 seconds and added 17 points for Dayton (27-6), which hit 11 3-pointers to help overcome 24 turnovers. Her 3-pointer with 1:09 left broke a 87-87 tie.
“Every time we needed a big bucket, someone contributed and it wasn’t the same person every time,” Malott said. “We had contributions from everyone — everyone did their job.”
The Flyers, who won their seventh straight game, will face the winner of Monday’s game between Louisville and South Florida in the Albany Regional semifinals.
The Flyers, success in the tourney comes on the heels of the men’s team, who defeated Boise State and Providence this week.
“Our campus is always crazy, regardless of what’s going on, so this just really adds to it,” Deane said. “(It’s) definitely exciting. Everyone’s having fun (and) the weather’s getting warmer. If the men can pull out a win, and I definitely think they can, it should be great. I think it’s really, really cool for our university right now to represent Dayton.”
Makayla Epps scored 22 of her 29 points in the second half to lead Kentucky (24-10). Jennifer O’Neill added 16 and Bria Goss scored 12.
The Wildcats were without senior Azia Bishop, who was suspended by coach Matthew Mitchell for “failure to uphold team standards.”
Bishop was averaging 6.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Bishop had started the seven previous games and scored six points in Kentucky’s 97-52 win over Tennessee State in the opening round of the tourney.
The contest featured nine ties and nine lead changes and neither team led by more than nine points.
Kentucky defeated the Flyers 84-70 in the tournament in 2013 but couldn’t repeat the feat without one of its senior post players.
“Malott had a fantastic day and Deane had a fantastic day, and they just played up to their abilities and their best,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. “It just didn’t seem like we ever had that fire in our belly to advance.”
The teams combined for 61 fouls and 69 free throws. Dayton converted 28 of 31 from the line while Kentucky was 24 for 38.
Dayton: The senior duo of Andrea Hoover and Malott are the first class to win more than 100 career games in a four-year career. . The Lady Flyers have competed in six straight NCAA tournaments, a string which includes five straight at-large bids for the Atlantic 10 Conference school.
Kentucky: The Wildcats fell to 4-4 in second-round games in the NCAA Tournament, including a 3-1 mark at home. The Wildcats are 13-4 overall against Dayton, including a 2-1 mark in the NCAA tournament. Kentucky is now 17-12 in the tourney.
Dayton plays the winner of Monday’s Louisville-South Florida game in the semifinals of the Albany Regional.
Kentucky’s season is over.
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