Dayton led for more than 37 minutes in the Tuesday night’s Maui Invitational semifinal against No. 18 Baylor. Credit to the Bears, they hung tough, chipped away at the double-digit deficit and made some plays down the stretch to take a 67-66 win right out of the hands from the Flyers and punch their ticket to the Maui Invitational championship game against No. 8 Syracuse on Wednesday night.
The Bears trailed by 10 with seven minutes to play, but three minutes later, had cut it to a two-possession game.
The wild final two minutes began when Royce O’Neale drilled a three for Baylor, matched by Devin Oliver on the other end for Dayton. Gary Franklin followed, making a three of his own, cutting the Dayton lead to 66-65 game. After a stop, Baylor had the chance to take its first lead since 1-0. Kenny Chery’s shot from the baseline hit the front rim, but the ball fell right into the hands of Cory Jefferson, who put in the second chance opportunity.
Chery and O’Neale both led the pairs 13 points apiece, while Franklin, Jefferson and Isaiah Austin added 10 each.
Dayton was looking for its second win over a ranked opponent in as many days. It’s a painful loss for a scrappy Flyers team. Dayton could of gone for its third win over a ranked opponent in as many days on Wednesday night, but will have to settle for a third-place game against Cal team. Dayton was picked seventh in the Atlantic 10 this season, but looks like a team that could fight towards the top of the A10 standings led by Ohio State transfer Jordan Sibert.
The comeback over Dayton sets Baylor up for its first game against a ranked opponent this season. Baylor has a quality out-of-conference win over Colorado in the season opener and still has a Dec. 3 meeting with No. 3 Kentucky in Arlington, Texas. After stealing the game from the Flyers, Baylor can cash in with the Maui title and a win over a top-10 team.
The key to Wednesday night’s championship game with the Orange will be Austin. He ended with 10 points and seven boards, but he started the second half on the bench after going scoreless through the first 20 minutes. He and Jefferson will go head-to-head with another talented front court led by C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant, Rakeem Christmas and DaJuan Coleman.
Wednesday night’s game begins at 10 p.m. EST.