By: Daniel Massa – Sports Editor
ST. LOUIS – The haze that seemed to follow the Dayton men’s basketball team since the middle of February showed up in full force Friday afternoon in St. Louis, as the No. 7 seed Flyers fell to No. 10 Syracuse 70-51 at the Scottrade Center in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Dayton (25-8) lost five of its final nine games over the last month of the season, after climbing to a 21-3 record following a Feb. 12 68-66 victory at Rhode Island.
The Flyers shot 18-of-56 from the field Saturday (32.1 percent). Dayton shot better (45.5 percent) in its 82-79 Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinals loss to Saint Joseph’s on March 12, but junior guard Kyle Davis felt the Flyers let the A-10 Tournament loss affect their play against Syracuse.
“I feel like everything just rolled over from [the A-10 Tournament],” Davis said after the game. “Not making shots and people just hesitating to take shots—and I think it rolled over to today.”
Syracuse, led by Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, employs a trademark 2-3 zone defense the Flyers last saw two years ago when they defeated the then third-seeded Orange 55-53 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
Because of that familiarity, Dayton players and head coach Archie Miller were most frustrated not with the defense but with their inability to make shots around the rim.
“Their zone is their zone,” Miller said. “They didn’t do anything different than they ever do.”
“We beat ourselves in this game,” Davis said. “We weren’t making some smart decisions, and when the ball got in the middle, we weren’t making easy layups that we normally make.”
What was just a two-point halftime deficit for UD, 30-28, ballooned to as big as a 23-point 56-33 Syracuse lead with 7:48 to go. The Flyers scored just five points in the half up to that point. Dayton never cut the lead to fewer than 14 points from that time onward.
The Orange had five players score in double-figures and were led by freshman forward Malachi Richardson, who led all scorers with 21 points on five-of-12 shooting. He converted eight-of-nine free throw attempts, as well. Junior forward Tyler Roberson had 10 points and a game-high 18 rebounds, eight of them coming on the offensive end. Dayton had just 10 offensive rebounds as a team and was out-rebounded by 20 overall, 48-28.
“They were just more aggressive than us,” Dayton senior forward Dyshawn Pierre said.
Junior guard Charles Cooke led UD with 14 points on four-of-12 shooting, including two-of-nine from 3-point range. Junior point guard Scoochie Smith was the only other Flyer in double-figures with 12.
“We just didn’t play the way we wanted to play today,” Smith said. “And we tried to keep fighting, and, unfortunately, we were on the wrong end of the scoreboard.”
This marks the final game in the Flyer careers of Pierre and forward Bobby Wehrli. They were each a part of three NCAA Tournament teams and have five tournament wins between them.
“As I told the guys in the locker room, in particular [we’re] going to miss Dyshawn and Bobby,” Miller said after the game. “Those guys started us off a couple of years ago and gave us an opportunity to even be here today.”
Check out the Tuesday, March 22 issue of Flyer News for more on the Dayton men’s basketball team.
Photo: The Dayton Flyers struggled from inside the arc, shooting just 12-of-34 (35.3 percent) and 32.1 percent overall in a 70-51 defeat to Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday afternoon. Senior forward Dyshawn Pierre (21) finished with six points and six rebounds in his final game as a Dayton Flyer. Photo by Ron Thaman.