Negele Knight of the Flyers. Dayton Daily News photo
Four regular-season games remain for the Flyers. Win all four, and they’ll at least share first place in the Atlantic 10. Go 3-1, and they’re still in good shape for the NCAA tournament and a top four seed in the A-10 tournament.
Going 4-0 in the last two weeks would be a rare feat. Dayton hasn’t done that since 1990. It has gone 3-1 nine times since then and in each of the last three seasons.
Here’s a look back at a win over Xavier on Senior Night on March 3, 1990. It was Dayton’s seventh straight victory to close the regular season. That team, led by Negele Knight, finished 22-10, won the MCC tournament and lost in the second of the NCAA tournament to Arkansas.
This Dayton Daily News story is by former UD beat writer Bucky Albers.
FLYERS BEAT THE CLOCK, XAVIER LEAD SHRINKS, BUT UD WINS FOR SECOND PLACE
The University of Dayton Flyers treated a sellout crowd of 13,511 to the biggest first half in UD history Saturday afternoon and then put the fans through an emotional wringer before escaping the UD Arena with a thrilling 111-108 victory over the Xavier Musketeers.
Dayton scored 65 points in the first half and led the Midwestern Collegiate Conference champions by 26 points with 14 minutes remaining, but Xavier made a furious rally that was stopped only by the clock.
“I’m sure glad this game wasn’t 10 seconds longer,” UD Coach Jim O’Brien said.
So was every Flyer fan in the house.
The 19th-ranked Musketeers had the basketball for the last 11 seconds and tried to get someone free for a 3-point shot, but the Flyers pressured them on the perimeter and Xavier never got off a shot.
After Jamal Walker tried unsuccessfully to work free behind the 3-point line, he gave the ball to the red-hot Michael Davenport, who was double-teamed by Anthony Corbitt and Ray Springer. Davenport slipped and lost the ball near the top of the circle as time ran out.
“We fought hard,” said Xavier Coach Pete Gillen, whose team trailed by 23 (65-42) at halftime. “I’m very disappointed we lost, but I consider it a moral victory.”
This was the seventh straight victory for the amazing Flyers, who finished the regular season with an 18-9 overall record and a 10-4 MCC mark that guarantees them the second seed in the tournament that begins here Thursday.
“I think they’ve put themselves in a position for an NCAA bid,” O’Brien said. “It all depends on what happens in the tournament.”
For Xavier, which finished 24-3 overall and 12-2 in the MCC, the defeat ended a 12-game winning streak. The Musketeers’ only other MCC loss was 59-51 at Evansville Jan. 18.
Once again UD point guard Negele Knight was brilliant. The 6-foot-2 senior from Detroit scored 30 points – 19 in the first half – and had 11 assists. He was 11 of 13 from the field, 4 of 4 from 3-point range and 4 of 5 at the free throw line. Knight is averaging 31.4 points in the last five games.
Knight wasn’t the only UD star, however. All 11 Flyers who played made a contribution of one kind or another.
Springer, given some freedom by the Xavier defense, burned the Musketeers with a career-high 26 points and had six assists.
Corbitt scored 22 points and collected nine rebounds as the Flyers put up a decent battle on the boards. They were outrebounded only 36-32 by the team that had a 43-26 edge in the Feb. 3 game won by Xavier 88-81 at Cincinnati Gardens.
Sam Howard gave Corbitt significant help on the glass, bulldozing his way to seven rebounds. Howard also scored 10 points.
Forward Noland Robinson, choosing his shots carefully, hit 6 of 7 and scored 12 points. Norm Grevey contributed a pair of treys, Wes Coffee had a big basket early, Alex Robertson grabbed three rebounds, Troy McCracken had two in two minutes, David Bradds had an assist and Bill Uhl a steal. Seniors’ farewell It was the final home game for the six seniors – Corbitt, Knight, McCracken, Robinson, Springer and Uhl. Except Knight, each was introduced with his parents in pre-game ceremonies.
Knight’s parents are deceased, and Negele was understandably somber as he returned to the UD huddle.
“I was thinking about my mom,” he said as he sobbed in the dressing room after the game. “Everything I do from now on is for her. All of the rest of the games I ever play anywhere will be dedicated to her, and especially this one today and my season here at the University of Dayton. I just wish she had been here to see it, but I know she’s watching.”
The UD crowd, which was so fired-up for the Notre Dame game Wednesday, brought back the same enthusiasm and perhaps a little more for this MCC shootout at high noon.
Dayton fell behind 6-2, but tied it at 6. Xavier went ahead 8-6 and then Dayton made a 9-point run, featuring two baskets by Corbitt and a 3-pointer by Springer. The crowd stood and cheered for the duration of a timeout at 15:05.
Springer sent the noise to a higher level with another 3 after the timeout, and UD was in high gear.
Xavier had nobody who could guard Knight, who darted through the defense to create shots for himself or opportunities for teammates. He was 8 for 10 from the field in the first half.
All of the Flyers were shooting so well from outside that Xavier was helpless defensively. Dayton hit a sizzling 69 percent (24 for 35) of its shots in those 20 minutes, making 9 of 15 three-pointers. Swarming Musketeers At halftime Gillen told his team to loosen up.
“We told em, ‘Let’s swing for 40 minutes. As long as you give it your best, you can live with it,’ ” Gillen said. “I thought we could win.”
Dayton continued to pour it on in the second half, and the crowd loved it when Gillen had to call a timeout with 13:59 remaining and his team trailing 85-59.
He must have said the right thing in the huddle because it was a different Xavier team that returned to the floor. The Musketeers swarmed all over the Flyers, forcing 13 turnovers in the last 14 minutes and outscored UD 49-26 before time expired.
Dayton led 92-66 when Knight bombed in a 3 from the top of the key with 11:15 left, but UD went eight possessions without scoring and Xavier had a 12-point run to cut the deficit to 92-78.
UD recovered briefly on two jumpers by Springer and five points by Knight, who got an ovation when the first of his two free throws at 5:20 put Dayton at the 100 mark.
Xavier, showing its mettle, answered with 10 straight to make it 101-91 before Corbitt stopped the run with a free throw.
Then Corbitt made a nearly fatal mistake with 2:52 left when he took a fastbreak feed from Knight, who was trying to block out Walker under the basket. Getting too greedy
Instead of laying the ball in, he tried to dunk it — and missed.
“Walker and Negele got tangled up,” Corbitt explained. “When I went up, they cut my legs right out from under me so I didn’t get my full jump.
“I probably should have held the ball up because we were working on a lead. I was maybe getting too greedy at that point in the game. But everyone makes mistakes. Fortunately it didn’t come back to haunt me.”
Xavier kept coming. Two free throws by Walker made it 104-99 with 1:56 left, and the UD fans realized that Xavier was still in it.
Two baskets by Robinson and a free throw by Robertson made it 111-102 Dayton with 55 seconds left, but Davenport swished a pair of 3s around a UD turnover, and then Springer coughed up the ball near the UD bench.
Down by three, Xavier had 11 seconds to tie it.