If the Dayton Flyers had not gotten the attention of their opponents by reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1984, Thursday's 82-72 victory over the Stanford Cardinal at the FedEx Forum in Memphis may have done it.
The 11th-seeded Flyers cruised into their first NCAA Tournament Elite Eight appearance in 30 years by holding the lead for much of the game and did not trail again after guard Scoochie Smith buried a three-pointer to give them a two-point advantage over the No. 10 seed in the South Region at the 13:46 mark of the first half.
"(It was) a great week for us to prepare," Dayton coach Archie Miller said. "Stanford presented a lot of the challenges. Their size was something that was a little bit overwhelming to us I thought early. Then, as the game progressed, it continued to kind of keep us at bay.
"I give our guys a lot of credit. We had, I think, 11 guys score in the game, and from top to bottom, they just kept coming and coming and coming. The way they shared the ball, the way they moved the ball, I thought we pressured the ball. At times, it gave us a chance. It was a true team effort. That's what they've been about all year, so it's nice to see on the biggest stage, us be ourselves."
Of the 11 players who scored for Dayton, four reached double figures, led by guard Jordan Sibert's 18 points to go along with the 12 senior forward Devin Oliver tallied. In order to get those 18 points, Sibert buried four of his nine three-point attempts.
The Flyers handed out 19 assists against 10 turnovers, and defensively, they pressured the Cardinal into 12 turnovers."I think you have to have a feel that at some of our best moments of the season, we stuck with everybody," Miller said. "At times, when the games are bigger and the moments are bigger, you sort of get with the guys that have been there the longest, but at the end of the day, this team isn't built that way. Fatigue sets in. We're not as tough, and we don't have that ability to sort of spurt and break away."
As it was in the midst of its third NCAA Tournament game in the last eight days, Dayton (26-10) felt the support of its entire town while preparing for the Sweet 16 after one-possession victories over the Ohio State Buckeyes and Syracuse Orange. And there was a passionate contingent of Flyer fans who made the trip to Memphis for the game.
"It was a home game," Miller said of the atmosphere. "I think I said this at the press conference the other day. I don't know how we'll play, but our fans will be the loudest, and they will stand out. What I didn't know was how many were going to be here.
"They've been that way all the time. I keep telling everybody. No one understands it. This is the greatest stage for them to shine. It's the best fan base that a basketball community can be. There's other great schools, big schools, but you're talking about a private institution of about 7,000, 9,000 students that are filling up FedEx Forum for these guys, and I think that's what makes this place really special."