Clock strikes midnight on Cinderella story
By: Jon Kostoff – Staff Writer
A fairy tale season for the Dayton Flyers has come to an end.
Despite having only six scholarship players and three upperclassmen, the Flyers managed to win 27 games for the first time since the 2008-2009 season and reach the third round of the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year. Head coach Archie Miller echoed just how special of a season it was in the postgame media press conference.
“I’ll remember this season for as long as I live regardless of how long I coach. There will never be a team of seven people duplicate what we did, win 27 games with six scholarship players, a freshman, and three sophomores. It will never be done again,” Miller said.
The University of Oklahoma of the Big 12 Conference took down the Flyers 72-66 in front of the Flyer Faithful at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Led by the backcourt of Jordan Woodard and Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Wield, who combined for 31 points, the Sooners used hot shooting from downtown to end the Flyers’ season, converting eight 3-pointers in the first half alone.
Oklahoma jumped to a 12-4 lead just before the 15-minute mark of the first half thanks to four 3-pointers, two of which came off the hands of junior guard Isaiah Cousins.
The Sooners managed to push that lead all the way to 29-17. The life was sucked out of the building and it had all the makings of a blowout in Columbus.
Miller and company would not lie down and die that easily, though. The Flyers came storming back on a 15-0 run that was capped off by a 3-pointer from freshmen guard Darrell Davis to give the Flyers their first lead of the game, 43-40.
The Flyers were alive and well and Dayton fans throughout the building were on their feet chanting and cheering the team.
The small ball seven went into the half only down two after what seemed to be a cakewalk to the Sweet Sixteen for Oklahoma.
Dayton jumped all over the Sooners in the first seven minutes of the second half and built up a nine point lead, which ended up being their largest of the game.
The Flyers, seemingly, had all the momentum in the game. Three straight 3-pointers helped setup the big lead, two from Davis and one by junior forward Dyshawn Pierre.
The energy inside the building was palpable. The country could feel another upset in the making. No. 11-seed Dayton was in complete control of the No. 3-seeded Sooners.
It all went grim after that for the Flyers.
Oklahoma outscored the Flyers 32-15 the rest of the way and Dayton had a cold spell, missing shots from the floor for over nine minutes.
The wheels came off for a Dayton team that was playing their sixth game in 10 days even though sophomore guard Scoochie Smith thought otherwise.
“We don’t get tired. We’re still not tired and won’t be tired,” Smith said.
The Flyers season came to a close in a game so close the players could taste victory.
The chances were there for the Flyers to advance to the Sweet Sixteen in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1965-1966.
Four players finished in double figures for the Flyers, led by Smith who tied a career high with 16 points and Davis off the bench with five 3-pointers.
In his final game in a Dayton uniform, redshirt senior guard Jordan Sibert finished with seven points. Sibert racked up 53 wins in his two years with the program and certainly helped re-energize a program that so desperately awaited it. He became only the second player to reach 1,000 career points at UD in only two seasons.
“I couldn’t be prouder of [Jordan] and what he was able to accomplish and to be a difference-maker for us the last couple of years really was a script that you couldn’t have wrote any better,” Miller said.
Oklahoma, is headed to the Sweet Sixteen in for the first time since 2009 to take on the seven-seed Michigan State University. The game will be played in the Carrier Dome on the campus of Syracuse University. Coach Lon Kruger has now taken four different schools to the Sweet Sixteen, the first to do so in NCAA history.
Despite the loss, Dayton has won a game in back-to-back NCAA Tournaments for the first time in 48 years.