ALBANY, N.Y. — Geno Auriemma and his UConn Huskies are back in a familiar place — the Final Four.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 27 points to help UConn beat Dayton 91-70 on Monday night to advance to the national semifinals for an eighth straight season.
Now the Huskies stand two wins away from a third straight national championship. They accomplished that same feat from 2002-04.
Unlike the first three games of the tournament when UConn won by an average of nearly 48 points, the Huskies got all they could handle from the seventh-seeded Flyers, who weren’t intimidated by the top seed, for the game’s first 20 minutes.
“When we’re challenged, sometimes that’s when we’re at our best, and that’s what we talked about in the locker room and I couldn’t be prouder of them and happier for them … especially tonight against a great, great team,” Auriemma said. “Boy, I’m glad we don’t have to play them again.”
Trailing at the half for the first time in two seasons, UConn scored the first nine points of the second half during a 15-3 run to take a 58-47 lead with 13:56 left.
A little more than a minute later, Mosqueda-Lewis hit her fifth 3-pointer of the game giving her 393 in her career to break the NCAA record for 3s. That made it 62-49.
Dayton (28-7) couldn’t get within seven the rest of the way thanks in a big part to Mosqueda-Lewis, who finished the game with seven 3-pointers.
“It eases my mind a lot,” Mosqueda-Lewis said of getting the record. “Now I only have one thing to worry about — a national championship.”
The Huskies also turned up their defensive pressure. The Flyers shot 51 percent (18-for-35) in the first half, but could only manage to hit 37 percent in the second half.
Breanna Stewart added 23 points and 16 rebounds while Morgan Tuck had 23 points for the Huskies (36-1). Stewart was selected as the Most Outstanding Player of the region.
UConn will play either Tennessee or Maryland in the national semifinals Sunday night.
Auriemma was concerned before the game about Dayton’s wide-open style which features multiple players on the court who can hit 3s.
The Flyers went shot for shot with the Huskies for the first 20 minutes with neither team able to get more than a five-point lead.
Dayton made its first four 3-pointers and hit seven of the first 10 shots from behind the arc to put the pressure on the Huskies. UConn got a little breathing room going up 43-38 with just over 3 minutes left in the half and looked poised to take control.
But the Flyers didn’t wilt. They scored the final six points before break to go into the locker room up 44-43. That brought the strong contingent of Dayton fans to their feet as they serenaded their team with a loud ovation as they ran into the locker room.
“Really proud of our guys, we competed, weren’t intimidated,” Dayton coach Jim Jabir said. “They are the best team in the country, bar none. … For a long time we hung around and hung around. I couldn’t be more proud, this was a great day.”
This was the first time since the Big East final in 2013 that the Huskies trailed at the half. They weren’t rattled.
The loss ended the seventh-seeded Flyers’ improbable run. They reached the regional final for the first time in school history after beating Kentucky in the second round and Louisville in the Sweet 16.
Ally Malott scored 14 points, all in the first half, to lead Dayton.