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Dayton tops Stanford in Sweet 16 of NCAA Tournament
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- No Elvis sightings yet during the NCAA South Regional here. (Unless one counts the downtown statue, billboards plugging Graceland and scores of posters in the Beale Street barbecue joints.) But the University of Dayton is thoroughly in evidence, spreading the word about its basketball culture and history.
In Thursday night's regional semifinal, Dayton -- deep and speedy, with the pedal to the medal -- had Stanford choking in its dust throughout an 82-72 victory. With Dayton's sizable crowd outnumbering the followers of the other three regional teams, and outshouting its Stanford counterparts, Dayton beautifully illustrated team basketball.
Twelve Flyers saw action. Eleven scored. Eleven grabbed at least one rebound. Seven had at least one assist. Defensively, Dayton gave Stanford's leading scorer, junior Chasson Randle, fits. Randle led all scorers with 21 points but shot only 5-for-21 from the field, and two of those baskets came in the final minute, after the game had been decided.
Before the game, Dayton's pep band drew a large crowd with an impromptu concert on Beale Street. At Dayton's hotel, StubHub ticket brokers -- aware of how well Dayton fans travel -- set up shop.
"We have an incredible fan base,'' said Devin Oliver, who had 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Oliver grew up in Kalamazoo, Mich., but he has steeped himself in Dayton hoops tradition, throwing around players' names from the '60s, '70s and '80s.
"At our school, basketball is the sport,'' Oliver said. "We have 13,000 fans that come every game, win or lose.''
Mostly, Dayton (26-10) has been winning since a 1-5 midseason slump in which injuries played a part. Since then, Dayton is 13-2, including consecutive NCAA upsets of higher seeds Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford to reach the Elite Eight for the first time since 1984.
Stanford led the Flyers for only three brief moments, each time by one point, never after midway through the first half.
"The community, the program, they go hand in hand,'' coach Archie Miller said after yet another night that felt like a Dayton home game. "They live off one another. Sometimes 20-, 30-, 40-year season-ticket holders run up to you in a grocery store, and you can be 0-8 and they're going to get 12,000 people at the game, and they're going to cheer for you.
"They're going to love your players and the players are going to feel the benefits of what a lot of players around the country don't have at their fingertips.''
While Miller's brother Sean was coaching top-seeded Arizona to victory over San Diego State in Thursday night's West Regional semifinal, with much higher expectations, Archie was enjoying the benefits of the Dayton fan-player love-in, and the skills of slashing drivers Jordan Sibert (18 points) and freshman Kendall Pollard (12 points).
Center Matt Kavanaugh scored 10, repeatedly the benefit of precise feeds. (Vee Sanford led Dayton with four assists.)
"We have a lot of versatility,'' Miller said. "We have a lot of different guys do things. The biggest thing is our pace and how unselfish we are. When the ball moves, we move. We can play offense with just about anybody.''
Start spreading the word. Only a No. 11 seed, Dayton now is among the Elite Eight.
"I think there's a lot of people who don't realize,'' Sanford said. "You hear 'Dayton, Ohio,' you wonder where that is. But if you go there to any of our games, you'll be blown away.''