The University of Dayton Flyers are going to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA basketball tournament.
The men? Well, no. The women? Oh, yeah.
Playing on the University of Kentucky’s home floor (and not once did the broadcasters mention it), the UD women scored an incredible upset, scorching the UK Lady Cats, 99-94.
For the men, though, the glass slipper shattered under a late-game Oklahoma barrage and the Flyers lost, 72-66. Up by as many as nine points in the second half, the Flyers, probably running on empty after six games in 10 days, had a five-point lead, 56-51. But three turnovers and seven straight misses shots over a nine-minute span helped the Sooners go on a 16-0 run that put the Flyers on the sidelines.
BUT DO YOU WANT to talk about adversity and toughness? The Flyer women encountered adversity and showed rhinoceros-hide toughness in beating UK. Three UD starters fouled out and two others finished with four fouls. But Jim Jabir’s gang overcame it all and made Jabir’s promise come true. He told his team before the game, “You are going to the Sweet Sixteen.”
And can the UD women teach the UD men how to shoot free throws? The Flyer women made an incredible 28 of 31 free throws, including six straight in the last minute under unbearable pressure. For the Flyers it was more than bearable
THE FLYERS TOP scorer for the year, Andrea Hoover, spent considerable time on the bench with fouls and eventually fouled out.
But Ally Mallott came off the bench to score 28 and Amber Deane scored 20. Kelly Austria hit a three with 1:03 left to give the Flyers a 90-87 lead and then the Flyers buried their last six free throws. The dagger was applied by Tiffany Johnson, only a 65 per cent free throw shooters. But she knocked down the final two free throws with 0:3.4 seconds left.
And the Flyers women are off to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in school history — for the women.
FOR THE MEN, it was a sad ending to an unfathomable run. It is a story told over and over how the Flyers endured adversity. They won 27 games despite losing their two tallest players, who were kicked off the team, reducing the roster to six scholarship players.
They played more than half the season with no player over 6-foot-6 and only seven players in coach Archie Miller’s rotation. Yet there they were in the third round of the NCAA.
When Oklahoma began the game with three straight three-point baskets and a 9-0 lead, the road was tilted upward. But that’s been the modus operandi all season for the plucky Flyers.
Before the half ended, freshman Darrell Davis banged home three straight threes to give the Flyers a 32-29 lead. They trailed at the half, 32-30, but quickly built a 49-40 lead early in the second half.
THAT’S ABOUT WHEN the Flyers, running on fumes, saw the ‘E’ on the gas tank. An 11-0 Oklahoma run gave the Sooners a 60-56 lead when the Flyers went nine minutes without a basket and this time the miracle well was empty.
The Flyers have nothing to be ashamed of and not one should hang his heads. It was a memorable season performed by a bunch of gritty guys who didn’t understand that they weren’t supposed to do what they did all season.
But they did it, did far more than anybody should have expected.
FOR THOSE FLYING in or out of the Dayton airport Monday morning, I will be making my first book-signing appearance from 9 to noon near the book store in Dayton International Airport for my book, The Real