The University of Dayton men’s basketball team cheers as they beat Stanford University, 82-72, in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, March 27, 2014, at the FedExForum, in Memphis, Tennessee. The Flyers advance to the Elite 8 and will play Saturday in Memphis. Ethan Klosterman/Photo Editor
By: Steven Wright – Sports Editor
Freshman forward Kendall Pollard and redshirt junior guard Jordan Sibert didn’t play for the University of Dayton men’s basketball team last season.
Against Stanford University in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament, the two led the charge in propelling the Flyers to the regional finals for the first time since 1984. At the same time, a discovery may have been made about how much both are key pieces to their team.
Sibert scored a team high 18 points, including four 3-pointers and played 33 minutes. Pollard meanwhile had a career high with 12, the first time he’s scored in double digits in his career, going 5 of 6 from the field in just 14 minutes.
“Sibert was big time for us tonight,” senior forward Devin Oliver said. “His shot was on. When his shot is on, he’s tough to guard.
“And then Kendall, that goes back to our 12-man bench. Kendall came off the bench and just took advantage of his opprtunity. We weren’t surprised by that at all because that’s what Kendall does everyday in practice. He was just able to showcase it in a game and I’m really glad that he did.”
Pollard looked like a future star.
Driving into the lane with confidence on multiple occasions, he took the ball at the rim by attacking Stanford’s front line off the dribble, getting several layups. His free throw shooting continued to improve as well, knocking down two of his four attempts to improve his average.
“Kendall definitely has that in his game,” redshirt senior guard Vee Sanford said of Pollard’s driving ability. “It’s just a matter of him being comfortable and confident. Tonight, he showed how comfortable and confident he was driving to the basket and finishing. He’s not a freshman anymore, he’s a sophomore and he showed it tonight.”
Pollard said coming from a big high school program and winning a state title in his senior year has gotten him expecting to win at Dayton.
Head coach Archie Miller said that high school experience only helped to prepare the growth he has made in his game this season.
“His practices have been aggressive,” Miller said. “He’s had a very good bounce about him in terms of confidence, trying to make plays, and not just tonight, he’s helped us in a lot of games.”
On the other hand, Sibert sat on the bench through last season’s 17-14 campaign due to NCAA transfer rules. Getting his opportunity this year, Sibert came up big when his team needed a shooting presence on the floor.
Sibert’s 18 points were the most since March 1, and his outside game helped lead to his own chances at getting easy drives to the bucket, as he went 3-for-3 inside the arc.
“Definitely came up big,” Sanford said. “Jordan hitting those big shots and spreading the floor open, getting that big lead helped out.”
UD missed a go-to scorer last season away from the point guard position, where guard Kevin Dillard had to do most of the work in distributing and scoring, leading the team in both assists and points. Sibert now has been able to lead
Dayton in scoring this season at 12.5 points per game, but allowing teammates to find him around the perimeter to help create more offense.
“I know what coach wants,” Sibert said. “We all want to be winners and be considered winners.”
Dayton has become winners of 26 games this season. None bigger than a win over Stanford in the Sweet 16.
Two guys who didn’t play last year were a big part of it.