Jeremiah Bonsu and Scoochie Smith leave the court after the win. David Jablonski/Staff
More on the late, late show later, but for now the game story Jay Morrison and I combined on last night:
The Dayton Flyers arrived at Nationwide Arena at 9:03 p.m. and left the court at 1:09 a.m. In between, they put to bed any notions that they were tired, that last March’s magic was a fluke and that the end of this season might just be around the corner.
From the way they played Friday night and Saturday morning, the fun might just be starting for the Dayton Seven.
The No. 11 seed Flyers pulled away from No. 6 seed Providence in the final seven minutes, advancing to the round of 32 in the East Region with a 66-53 victory.
The game lacked the drama of last year’s last-second victory against Ohio State in the second round. For anyone on the Dayton bench and the thousands of Flyer fans who turned Columbus into Dayton East for a night, that was just fine.
A season full of tense moments featured a calm finish. Dyshawn Pierre dribbled out the clock. The players walked quietly to the bench and then shook hands with the Friars.
The Flyers (27-8) looked as if they have been here before — and, of course, they have. They reached the Elite Eight a year ago and are one victory away from the Sweet 16. They will play No. 3 seed Oklahoma at 6:10 p.m. Sunday at Nationwide.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “They continue to not only defy the odds, but they just have an incredible toughness about them. The five core guys that have played in the NCAA tournament have now won five games in the tournament in two years. It’s a big reason why we continue to play the way we are.”
Three of those players hit double figures.
Dyshawn Pierre scored 20 points and kept his shorts on all night two days after losing them for a second in a 56-55 victory against Boise State in the First Four at UD Arena.
Jordan Sibert scored 15 despite some shooting struggles (3 of 12). Scoochie Smith had 11 points, three assists and one turnover and played every minute.
None of the Flyers seemed bothered by the late start. The game, the fourth of the day at Nationwide, began at 10:53 p.m. The length of the first three games pushed the start well past the scheduled time of 9:57.
“We were excited to play,” Pierre said. “We just started to prep a little more with the time we had.”
Dayton and Providence (22-12) both looked a little sleepy to start the game, as the teams combined to miss 20 of the first 23 shots.
But the Flyers snapped out of the sluggish start by getting to the free-throw line 14 times in the first half to Providence’s one. Dayton led 28-25 at halftime. All seven Flyers scored in the first half.
The Friars, on the other hand, never woke up against Dayton’s defense. Providence shot 33.3 percent (20 of 59) from the floor to finish nearly 20 points below its season average of 70.2
The only team that held the Friars to fewer points this year was the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats, who dealt the Friars a 58-38 loss Nov. 30.
The biggest difference for the Dayton offense in the second half was the ability to hit from long range. The Flyers made 6 of 13 3-pointers after the break, with Pierre (three) and Sibert (two) accounting for five of them.
Kyle Davis added a career-high nine rebounds and a career-high five steals to go along with six points and three assists.
Dayton finished 22 of 30 from the line, while the Friars were just 3 of 7.
Providence star LaDonte Henton scored 18 points, but they came on 7 of 26 shooting. Providence coach Ed Cooley received a technical foul with 3:52 to go after hit hit a chair while in a huddle on the bench. The Flyers led 50-42 at the time and stretched their lead to nine with one free throw by Sibert.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know I hit the chair,” Cooley said. “You’re coaching your team. You know it puts the official in a tough spot. I was conversing with him. It was one of those things. It was more emotion, trying to fire my team up.”
Darrell Davis after a 3-pointer last night. David Jablonski/Staff