By: Nathan Vicar – Staff Writer
Pulling off its biggest upset in six years, the University of Dayton men’s basketball team beat No. 11 Gonzaga University 84-79 in the quarterfinals of the 2013 EA Sports Maui Invitational Monday, Nov. 25.
The win was Dayton’s biggest over a ranked team since they defeated No. 6 Pittsburgh Dec. 29, 2007, at UD Arena.
In the first half, Dayton struggled as Gonzaga’s post defense stifled UD senior center Matt Kavanaugh and sophomore forward Devon Scott.
However, Dayton (5-0) trailed by only nine into halftime after being down by as many as 16, setting the stage for a large comeback.
Sophomore forward Dyshawn Pierre got the second half started off a tip-in bucket, which cut the lead to seven. The Flyers followed it up with consecutive 3-pointers and a layup to help get a 48-47 lead with 13:54 remaining.
The packed Dayton crowd at the Lahaina Civic Center roared with cheers, making it seem like Dayton was playing at home in UD Arena. A boisterous crowd gave Dayton confidence in the second half, as fans packed their entire section with red and blue, holding four paper heads, including one of UD President Daniel Curran, who was in attendance.
“[The crowd] was amazing man,” senior forward Devin Oliver said. “You know, we had so many people out there before we even played. We were told that we sold the most tickets out of all the teams at the tournament. To have such a powerful fan base means a lot to us as players. They stuck with us even when we were down, so it was great to have them here.”
The crowd appeared to have an impact through the final 20 minutes of the game.
With 3:46 left to play in the second half, Dayton had its largest lead of the night, up nine at 72-63 after Oliver made back-to-back free throws.
The turning point of the night for Gonzaga came when three of its star players in the game fouled out in a span of two minutes. Senior forward Dower Jr. fouled out with 3:46 remaining in the game. Thirty seconds later, 7-foot, 1-inch, 296-pound sophomore center Przemek Karnowski was next.
Finally, with 22 seconds left and Gonzaga down by two, junior guard Kevin Pangos fouled out of the game after making the last 12 of his team’s 14 points down the stretch.
“Early on, I knew I had four fouls and I just kind of blanked there,” Pangos said. “I guess some of the coaches were telling me, and that was my fault. I should have known and known the foul situation. … If I knew, I wouldn’t have gone for it, but I just kind of blanked.”
After Pangos fouled out, Gonzaga ran the court and junior guard Gerard Coleman made an easy layup to cut the lead to one. Pierre followed it up, making a pair of free throws to extend the advantage back to three with 16 seconds left.
Gonzaga attempted to tie the game with a three on its next possession, but the shot didn’t fall. Sophomore guard Khari Price then hit a pair at the line to seal the game.
“Our guys weren’t panicked at halftime at all,” head coach Archie Miller said. “At halftime, we talked about a few things and our guys were able to do those. The way we rebounded the ball and made shots, that’s what college basketball is about.”
The second half helped the Flyers turn things around, as they ended up shooting 17-of-28 from the field, and 8-of-13 from three.
Dayton out-rebounded Gonzaga 40-29, with 18 offensive rebounds compared to Gonzaga’s five. UD scored 14 second-chance points off those rebounds.
“In the second half, guys were ready to play the right way,” Miller said. “Got off to a really hot start. And I think from that point forward, we were the team that we wanted to be.”
Redshirt junior guard Jordan Sibert led the Flyers, scoring 23 points.
The first half of the game didn’t start the way they had hoped.
With 2:12 remaining on the clock, Gonzaga grabbed its largest lead of the game at 34-18. UD picked up the slack though, going on a 12-5 run to end the first half to be down nine.
“We did miss some good shots in the first half, some open ones. Maybe we were a little tight,” Miller said.
Dayton shot 10-of-31 from field goal range and was only 1-of-8 shooting 3-pointers in the first half.
Dower Jr. and Pangos had 23 of Gonzaga’s 37 points at halftime.
Prior to the game, Gonzaga head coach Mark Few complimented the Flyers and Miller. He said Dayton a team capable of playing into the second weekend of an NCAA Tournament, and called UD, “scary athletic.”
Dayton is now 6-1 all-time in the Maui Invitational and will have another tough test Tuesday night playing Baylor University, ranked No. 18 in the AP poll, in the semifinals.
Tuesday night’s game is scheduled to tip at 9:30 p.m. EST and be shown on ESPN.