NCAA News Wire

Depth propels Dayton to Elite Eight

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Dayton used superior depth to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in 30 years with an 82-72 victory over Stanford on Thursday night in the NCAA South Regional semifinals at FedExForum.

“It was a true team effort,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said after his bench outscored the Stanford bench 34-2 and 11 different Flyers scored in the game. “It was nice to see us on the biggest stage be ourselves.”

The 11th-seeded Flyers (26-10) advance to play top-seeded Florida (35-2) on Saturday for a berth in the Final Four. The Gators beat fourth-seeded UCLA 79-68 Thursday.

Guard Jordan Sibert led Dayton with 18 points, as he shot 4-for-9 from 3-point range. Freshman forward Kendall Pollard scored a career-high 12 points off the bench for the Flyers, forward Devin Oliver had 12 points and seven rebounds, and center Matt Kavanaugh finished with 10 points.

After beating sixth-seeded Ohio State by one point and third-seeded Syracuse by two points, the Flyers will were able to breathe a bit easier at game’s end this time.

“Definitely a relief,” Siebert said.

But there was no rest for Stanford this night. While Dayton played 10 players at least seven minutes, the Cardinal only played seven players that much.

“They were relentless,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “They came in waves. They had two guys at every position.”

Tenth-seeded Stanford (23-13) got 21 points from guard Chasson Randle, and 17 points and nine rebounds from forward Dwight Powell. Center Stefan Nastic had 15 points for the Cardinal but fouled out with 5:04 left in the game. It was his ninth disqualification of the season. Stanford forward Josh Huestis added 13 points and eight rebounds.

Stanford wanted to go inside to use its size and length advantage, but Nastic had to sit down early in both halves because of his foul trouble.

“When he came out, it kind of disrupted our offense,” Dawkins said.

Stanford pulled within 47-43 with 15:53 to go on a Powell layup as the Cardinal made a 7-0 run to cut into the Flyers’ lead. However, that was close as Stanford could get, and Dayton’s advantage never dropped below 10 points in the last five minutes of the game.

Dayton shot 48.3 percent (28-for-58), and Stanford shot 37.9 percent (22-for-58). The Cardinal finished with 10 assists and 12 turnovers.

Dayton led 42-32 at halftime and Dawkins picked up a technical foul late in the first half.

“More or less just trying to get my team going,” he said. “The ref did the right thing. I should have been teed up.”

Dayton’s Pollard was averaging 8.3 minutes a game. He still only played 14 Thursday night, but made the most of them as he was 5-for-6 from the floor.

“Big-time winner, not afraid of anything,” Miller said. “I don’t think he checked into (games) a couple of times in January and February and he’s at his best now.”

Miller said there were times during the season when it would have been easy to just ride the starters, but the right decision proved to be employing the team’s depth.

“You have to have a feel,” he said. “Some of our best moments this season were when we stuck with everybody.”

Randle suffered through a 5-for-21 shooting night and made five of Stanford’s turnovers, but was encouraged by making the Sweet Sixteen.

“It’s motivating,” he said. “It means we have to work so much harder to advance and go farther.”

And advancing is exactly what’s on Sibert’s mind, especially given the predictable lack of recognition accorded a team that is seeded 11th.

“People have doubted us, not given us a lot of credit,” Sibert said. “At the end of the day, we want to be considered winners and show we can compete with anybody, we can handle anybody.”

NOTES: The Cardinal played 13 teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament field and went 9-9. Six of Stanford’s 12 non-conference foes made the NCAA bracket. … In Stanford’s 60-57 upset of second-seeded Kansas, the Jayhawks were held more than 20 points below their season average (79.6). … Reaching the Sweet 16 marks Dayton’s deepest NCAA run since 1984, when the Flyers lost to Georgetown in the regional finals.

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

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