In their quest for an elusive Final Four, the journey continues tonight for the UK Hoops team. The 28-5 and second seed Kentucky Wildcats take on the 28-2 and seven seed Dayton Flyers. It is a very interesting match up no matter how you look at it, and with a Sweet 16 berth on the line, both of these teams will be sure to leave it all on the floor in Queens tonight. For the second year in a row, the Cats are faced with an early game against a proven and talented squad, but who got shafted in the seeding process due to their “mid-major” status. The Flyers were admittedly salty after the Selection Show, believing their resume warranted a higher seed, but they are here now and ready to compete against the Cats.
Dayton finished the regular season sweeping their conference opponents with a 14-0 record in the Atlantic 10. Despite a stumble in the conference tournament semifinals against St. Joes, the Flyers have looked on point against all of their competition all season. Their only other loss came on the road to Bowling Green. Kentucky and Dayton have two common opponents this season, as both teams have faced off against and beaten DePaul and Vanderbilt. The Cats took down both these squads by a total of 54 points in the regular season, while Dayton only beat them by a combined 17 points. Comparative results against common teams can only tell you so much, but you have to think it means something.
Expect tonight’s game to be an extremely fast paced, up tempo game. Both the Flyers and the Cats are very talented offensively, and can beat you from multiple positions on the court. Dayton is led by Andrea Hoover, who averages over 12 points a game and shoots around 40% from behind the arc. In Kentucky’s first round game against Navy, the Cats struggled to defend the 3-pointer early on as the Midshipmen broke the press, so UK must come out from the gates with a strong defensive presence against this explosive Flyer team.
Despite not having played since the 90’s, these teams do have a certain familiarity with each other. The Cats and the Flyers met up for a pre-season scrimmage this past summer, and both coaches admitted that while the scrimmage doesn’t help them prepare much in terms of x’s and o’s, it helps to know what kind of team they are up against. This level of familiarity is rare in NCAA Tournament games, so don’t expect there to be a learning curve for either team. Samarie Walker and Dayton sophomore Abby Mallot have known each other since Walker was in eighth grade from the AAU circuit in Ohio, and the Flyers feature two Kentucky gals: Brittany Wilson from Louisville and Bre Elder from Lebanon. It’s no secret, Kentucky is going to press. Dayton already averages around 16 turnovers a game, and the Cats will look to exploit that number into easy fast break points.
A’dia Mathies is coming off of the first game in her career in which she didn’t score a single field goal. After the win, neither Mitchell nor Mathies were quite sure why she was “off”, but I would bet a large sum of money on it not happening again. Mathies has never really had a “slump”. She is reliable, and you can always count on her to get back up and explode. Look for the senior star to have a great game tonight in hopes of propelling her team to the Sweet 16.
Game tips at 7:15 on ESPN2….watch it.