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Game No. 29 recap: Dayton 75, Rhode Island 59

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Jordan Sibert waves goodbye to UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff


Consider Jordan Sibert’s first and last moments in games that count at UD Arena:

First: the buzzer-beat vs. IPFW, a season-saving shot considering all that happened later, a shot that made the Elite Eight possible, a shot that paved the way for all the Flyers have done in 2014-15.

Last: He leaves the court in the final minutes of a 75-59 victory against Rhode Island (photos here) as the star of Senior Night (highlights here). It’s just the way anyone would have scripted it. He’s the only senior, one of only seven players. If Saturday’s win at VCU didn’t clinch an NCAA berth for UD, this one did.

The Flyers will dance in back-to-back seasons. Sibert is a big reason why.

Five things to take from Dayton’s victory:


 

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Jordan Sibert on way to celebrate with students. David Jablonski/Staff

1. A perfect night for Sibert.

From my game story:

Dayton guard Jordan Sibert hugged everyone he saw as left Tom Blackburn Court for the last time. He first embraced coach Archie Miller, then the assistant coaches, his teammates and the trainers. He even hugged the usher nearest the bench.

Sibert then hugged fans in the student section with the rest of his teammates as the Flyers celebrated a 75-59 victory Tuesday over Rhode Island on a Senior Night described simply by Sibert as perfect. As he walked up the tunnel at UD Arena for the final time, Sibert had one last hug for athletic director Tim Wabler.

Sibert arrived at UD three years ago with much fanfare after transferring from Ohio State. He’ll leave with one of the great two-year runs in school history.

The chants of “Jordan Sibert” that echoed around the arena in the final minutes, especially when he left the game after scoring a team-high 21 points, will ring in his ears for years. The team’s lone senior led the Flyers to a perfect season at home (16-0 and 21 straight wins overall) and to the brink of an Atlantic 10 regular-season title.

“I couldn’t think of any other way to have a Senior Night,” Sibert said. “I’ve just been blessed this entire year.”


 

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The Red Scare last night. David Jablonski/Staff

2. UD Arena was loud.

Miller described the atmosphere as magical. Tom Archdeacon focused on the fourth sell-out crowd of the season in his column.

As he trudged up the UD Arena ramp Tuesday after the worst loss of his season – a 76-59 loss to the Dayton Flyers that knocked his Rhode Island team out of first place in the Atlantic 10 standings and cost it seeding position in the upcoming conference tournament – Rams’ big man Hassan Martin summed the night up perfectly.

“This is a tough place to play,” he said in little more than a whisper. “The crowd really gets into it. They know their basketball.”

“Your Rhode Ends Here!”

Although Rhode Island and VCU were the A-10’s best teams in league play on the road this year – they had lost just once in seven games – the Rams ran out of pavement at UD Arena, just as 15 other teams had done this season.

The victory gave the 23-6 Flyers a perfect 16-0 record at home this season, something that’s been equaled just once before – the 2008-09 team finished 18-0 – in 46 seasons. And over all those years, there have only been four Flyers teams that have had had losing records for their seasons and the last one was 21 years ago.


 

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Sibert shoots in first half. David Jablonski/Staff

3. Sibert’s brother, himself a former Flyer, helped him prepare.

From my second story last night:

Dayton senior guard Jordan Sibert and his brother Logan Brogden watched a half hour of film Monday night at Sibert’s apartment in preparation for Dayton’s game Tuesday against Rhode Island. The extra study paid off as Sibert scored 21 points in a 75-59 victory on Senior Night at UD Arena.

The brothers don’t get to do this often because Brogden is an assistant coach at Tiffin University. With his season over, he turned his attention to his brother. Brogden is eight years younger and played at UD in 2002-03.

Bothered by a sore wrist, Sibert isn’t practicing anymore. He’s not even shooting. His brother told him getting the mental work done is just as important.

“After we got done, he said, ‘Hey, brother, should I go to the gym?’” Brogden said. “I said, ‘No. Relax. Get ready for tomorrow.’”


 

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Kendall Pollard dunks against Rhode Island. David Jablonski/Staff

4. Flyers one win from A-10 regular-season title.

The Flyers clinched one of the top two seeds in the A-10 tournament last night. They will play at noon on March 13 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn if they get the No. 1 seed or 6:30 if they get the No. 2 seed.

They’ve got a chance to get the top spot, but need to beat La Salle and hope Davidson loses one of its last two games. The Flyers will clinch at least a share of the title if Davidson loses to VCU on Thursday.

The Flyers have not won an A-10 title since the league did away with divisions after the 2004-05 season. They won West Division titles in 2000 and 2004.

Former Dayton Daily News sports writer and former Flyer Doug Harris covered the game last night for Press Pros Magazine and provided some background on what Miller and his staff are trying to do.

UD fans certainly couldn’t ask anything more from Miller and his staff, who have produced on a promise they made when they arrived four years ago. Standing on a stage at a massive summer cookout at the Kettering home of booster Steve Levitt, Miller took the microphone and boldly said before about 800 supporters, “We will win championships.”

Reminded by Press Pros Magazine of that statement after the Rhode Island win, Miller said: “We mean what we say, and we say what we mean. I’ve been at a lot of good places, but I knew coming here what we had at our fingertips. I also knew how we were going to do things, and I thought it was going to take off.“We’ve been fortunate. We’ve had a lot of guys develop, which is part of our program. We’ve had good recruiting classes that have helped us. And I think in general our style of play has really evolved. We’re not an easy cover. Our defense has grown. And we’ve turned ourselves into that kind of program, where we can win.

“One thing I knew — that a lot of people didn’t know — was what that arena is like on game day. When you have that at your fingertips and you take advantage of that, you’re going to be in that position.”


 

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5. The Flyers are peaking, not fading.

Miller was right on the money when he said after the Duquesne loss, “Judge us on how we finish.” One bad game didn’t meant the Flyers were fading. They’ve responded with three straight wins and two of their best performances of the season against VCU and Rhode Island.

Kevin Goheen, who I will see again on Reds’ Opening Day unless the Flyers are in the Final Four, covered the game for Fox Sports Ohio last night.

 It would be easy to think this team is tired. Or should be. It is not.

“It’s all about the mind,” Miller said. “You listen to everyone talk about how you’re tired, you’ll be tired. If you look at everybody and say ‘I’m not tired’, you’re not tired.”

Miller said the moment that UD is enjoying helps. It won last Saturday at VCU, the preseason favorite and ranked No. 22 at the time.

“Being in the game late February, how can’t you be excited?” asked Miller. “How can’t you be excited to be on national television with that crowd? There’s no time to be tired. They logged a lot of minutes. They’ve logged a lot of minutes throughout the course of the season but, to me, they’re playing at their best right now. … They are mentally sharp.”


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