Looking back: Flyers won A-10 tournament at home in 2003

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Brooks Hall, D.J. Stelly and Nate Green hoist the A-10 trophy in 2003. Photo by Shiloh Crawford III

Greetings from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Two Dayton-killers (this year at least) are playing in front of me: La Salle and UMass. La Salle’s about to wrap this one up and will play Davidson at noon Friday.

This is the first of four games today. The Flyers find out their opponent when St. Bonaventure and St. Joseph’s play at 6:30 p.m.

Twelve years ago this week, the Flyers won their first (and so far only) A-10 tournament championship, beating Temple at UD Arena. They have lost in the title game twice since (2004 and 2011).

Here’s a look back at that victory over Temple on March 15, 2003. The game story is by former UD beat writer Bucky Albers.

UD awaiting NCAA’s call after 79-72 victory over Temple

DAYTON — It was a scene that no University of Dayton basketball team has experienced in 13 years.

Having snipped the last string holding the nylon net to the rim on the South end of UD Arena, Ramod Marshall swirled the net in the air before making a necklace of it.

The UD fans were chanting, “We are UD!” over and over.

Greg Kohls was “crowd surfing” a group of UD students celebrating in front of the team bench. Keith Waleskowski quietly filled a cup with water and showered his teammates with it.

They were celebrating Dayton’s first championship since 1990 when the Flyers beat Xavier for the Midwestern Collegiate Conference title.

The 22nd-ranked Flyers, completing a three-game sweep in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament, spoiled Temple University’s late-season bid for an NCAA Tournament berth and claimed one for themselves by defeating the Owls, 79-72, Saturday in front of a crowd of 11,537.

The Flyers, now 24-5, will get their NCAA tournament assignment today.

“We’ve got more work to do,” said 6-foot-11 center Sean Finn, who scored a career-high 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. “It’s not like the season’s over. We’ve got hopefully a couple of more weeks left. We’ll celebrate now, but were not satisfied. We’ll go back to work on Monday and have three or four excellent practices before the opening round.”

Dayton shocked the Owls by bolting to a 14-0 lead in the first 3:49 and then settled into a strong, steady performance.
Ramod Marshall, who would be named the most valuable player, Mark Jones and Brooks Hall penetrated the middle of Temple’s patented matchup zone defense and passed the ball back to the perimeter or fed the ball to Finn.

Temple’s offense didn’t function well enough to keep up, and when the Owls made a late run, they couldn’t deliver the key baskets. This was the same Temple team that had upset defending champion Xavier, 63-57, on Friday.

Dunking the ball three times in the first eight minutes, Finn scored 11 of UD’s first 20 points, and the crowd voiced its approval throughout the game.

“That’s the most active I’ve seen Sean all year,” Hall said. “That was all Sean. He did a good job of reading the defense. he got a lot of opportunities for himself by rebounding hard and running the court. He got involved in the game. If we can get him to play like that every game … ”

It wasn’t a one-man performance by any means. The Flyers showed the same unselfishness that has been their trademark, working the ball patiently until they found a teammate with a good shooting opportunity. And when they shot it, they made it 45 percent of the time.

Dayton had defeated Temple, 57-49, on Jan. 25 in Philadelphia, but this wasn’t the same Temple team. The Owls, now 15-15, have been on a great run, and they had looked awesome Friday against Xavier.

“They’re a better team late in the season,” Marshall said. “John Chaney’s always has his Temple Owls ready to play at tournament time. We knew we were going to have a challenge. We just wanted to make sure we got to the middle (of the Owl defense). We didn’t want to go baseline because when we did, we turned the ball over.”

The Flyers did not change the game plan that worked successfully once before.

“We knew from playing them the last time that if our guards were aggressive in attacking, it would open a lot with bounce passes or lobs for an easy two for me,” Finn said. “I was able to get several easy baskets.”

After taking the 14-0 lead, Dayton maintained close to a double-digit lead until halftime and led, 39-24, at the break.

Just as Saint Joseph’s wiped out a 19-point Dayton lead on Friday with a fullcourt press, Temple was successful with the same tactic. The Owls began to whittle the deficit midway in the second half and got it to five (61-56) with 4:59 remaining. The Flyers expanded the lead to 12, but Temple reduced it to five (70-65) with 1:47 to play, and the crowd exhorted the Dayton team to hold on.

With 1:03 remaining, Hall fed the ball to Finn for a dunk to put Dayton ahead, 72-65, and the Owls were finished.
“We played against a great team, a better team, and found ourselves deep behind and just couldn’t pull it off,” Chaney said. “They stood tall. I hope they do well (in the NCAA Tournament).”

UD coach Oliver Purnell said he is pleased for the players who worked hard all season.

“Winning this championship in the Atlantic 10 is a tremendous accomplishment,” Purnell said. “We roared out of the gates tonight. I felt our guys were relaxed in the locker room and we were ready to play. It was a matter of holding on, taking care of the ball, making some shots against an excellent team.”

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