Dayton overcame a horrendous shooting start, catching fire from beyond the arc in the second half as they erased a 37-28 halftime deficit to beat No. 11 Gonzaga, 84-79.
Ohio State transfer Jordan Sibert led the way, scoring 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting while hitting the biggest shot of the game, a three with about a minute left that put the Flyers up 78-72.
Dayton is a good basketball team. They have some size and versatility up front, and their back court was talented before Sibert’s addition. With Sibert in the mix, the Flyers have their go-to scorer, their guy that can get them 20 points on any given night, and that should be enough to get them into the race for the Atlantic 10 title. With VCU struggling, the league is wide-open and the Flyers, along with UMass and St. Louis, should be able to slide in and make a push for the top.
The bigger story here, however, is Gonzaga.
The lack of depth on the Zags’ front line was front and center on Monday night, as both Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski fouled out of the game before the final TV timeout. Those two also happen to be Gonzaga’s only true front court players which creates a problem.
Without them on the floor, the Zags are going to be very, very small even when Angel Nunez gets eligible. Now, generally speaking, small lineups can work, but not where the issue lies is in Gonzaga’s miniscule back court: David Stockton and Kevin Pangos have enough trouble defender quality guards when they can be as physical as they like. Now that hand-checks aren’t allowed?
This should have been expected. We knew this Gonzaga group was going to be a bit up and down this season, particularly on the nights when the big guys can’t stay on the court, and it was on full display in the quarterfinals out in Maui.
Dayton will advance to face Baylor, guaranteeing themselves a bump in their RPI come tournament time. But for Gonzaga, whose non-conference schedule is already fairly weak, this loss could end up costing them an at-large bid, depending on how things play out. They get Chaminade tomorrow and then either Arkansas or Minnesota on Wednesday. They visit West Virginia and host Kansas State, but the only other quality non-conference opponent they face is Memphis on the road. The same Memphis that got drubbed by Oklahoma State.
Missing out on a chance to play Baylor and Syracuse or Cal could end up hurting quite a bit.