One of the biggest stories of the 2015 NCAA Tournament has been Dayton’s run to the Round of 32. The Flyers continued its two-year run of March success with a 66-53 win over Providence on Friday night in the East Regional.
The Flyers were the only lower seed to win on Friday, a day after the NCAA Tournament was dominated by major upsets and nail-biting finishes.
Dayton (27-8) might have been the only double-digit seed to advance on Friday but controversy is perhaps the biggest reason why the Flyers are a major storyline so far this postseason. Many across the country viewed Dayton’s win over Boise State in the First Four as an unfair home game for the Flyers because they got to play on their home floor — where they were unbeaten in the regular season. While technically a neutral game, the arena was packed with Dayton fans that clearly gave the Flyers a boost as they finished the Broncos off on Wednesday with a 10-2 run to close the game.
Friday’s win over Providence didn’t do much to quiet the critics of Dayton.
With the game being played in Columbus, Ohio — only a short drive from Dayton’s campus — the heavily pro-Flyer crowd undoubtedly helped a weary Dayton team that was running low on gas because of its depleted roster of only six scholarship players.
Dyshawn Pierre paced the Flyers with 20 points and nine rebounds while Jordan Sibert had 15 points and Scoochie Smith chipped in 11. The criticism of Dayton continues to be mostly about its favorable “home” schedule so far in the tournament, but not nearly enough credit has been given to the Flyers for hitting big shots and playing tough defense on tough assignments.
Dayton’s defense did a number on Providence’s two stars, LaDontae Henton and Kris Dunn, as the duo combined to shoot 11-for-39 from the floor with eight turnovers. Henton (18 points, 11 rebounds) had a tough time finding consistency with his perimeter jumper while Dunn (11 points, four assists) could never get going thanks to an active Flyer defensive attack that swarmed and trapped a lot of high ball screens in the Providence offense. Jalen Lindsey also contributed 12 points for the Friars, who shot 33 percent (20-for-59) from the field on Friday.
Officiating didn’t make things any easier for the Friars. Providence (22-12) only went to the free-throw line seven times on Friday, while Dayton attempted 30 free throws. Ed Cooley was also given a very controversial technical foul late in the second half when it appeared he was just trying to fire up the Friars for a potential late-game run.
It’s easy to look at Dayton’s games within the state of Ohio and the questionable officiating as a product of only luck but the Flyers showed toughness and resiliency when they had to play a second highly-intense elimination game in under 48 hours against a talented Providence team.
The NCAA is giving the Flyers no favors on Sunday. Dayton may get the bigger crowd by being back in Columbus, but it has to play Oklahoma first among the two games in Nationwide Arena on Sunday. Having to bang down low with bruisers like TaShawn Thomas and Ryan Spangler will be really tough for Archie Miller’s team to handle on a little over 40 hours of rest.
But for now, Dayton continues to survive and advance in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. This program made an Elite 8 run last season and the 2014-15 Flyer roster is peppered with players with postseason experience. Dayton might be exhausted on Sunday, but it would be foolish to count them out against Oklahoma.