Tired Flyers welcome next challenge
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Another game, another quality opponent, another quick turnaround.
Dayton’s used to it all. Dayton welcomes it.
The darling of last year’s NCAA tournament after advancing to the Elite Eight, Dayton is two wins into another run. The first was last Wednesday, at home, in the First Four. By the time a made-for-TV late start turned Friday night into Saturday morning in Columbus, Dayton eliminated No. 6 seed Providence.
Sunday’s game vs. No. 3 seed Oklahoma is Dayton’s sixth game in the last 10 days.
The Flyers will be ready.
"I think when you take the floor in the games of these magnitudes, it’s very, very difficult mentally not to be ready," Dayton coach Archie Miller said. "I think it’s the mental (part). If you tell the players you’re tired, if everyone says you’re tired, and you allow them to buy in, they’ll be tired. We haven’t done that all year. We’ve been dealing with these turnarounds all the way from December, January and February, whether it be a Thursday game at home and a Saturday game on the road. It’s the same sort of feel for us. So we’re used to it, really."
Down to six scholarship players, none over 6’6, thanks to in-season attrition, Dayton keeps playing because sophomore Kendall Pollard is playing his best and because senior Jordan Sibert keeps delivering. The NCAA tournament selection committee seeded the Flyers No. 68, the last at-large team in the field, but Dayton has two wins in the books and has earned the chance to play again Sunday evening at 6:10 at Nationwide Arena, about 41 hours since it finished the Providence win.
"If you told (the players we played) at midnight, they’re going to be ready to go at midnight," Miller said. "I don’t think they care. As a coach you worry about everything — late start, late finish, how is this going to play into the next day, yada yada. But I don’t think it affects the players at all. Just for me, it was kind of hard to figure out (Saturday) morning, ‘What time did they actually go to bed last night? What time are we actually going to be able to do something tomorrow? Are they going to be too tired to do it?’
"To their credit we gave them the schedule. Boom, they were right on it. We started with treatment. We started with film. And when you look at young guys, especially in this tournament, they’re so excited to be here and it feels so good to win, that there are very few things that can actually disrupt them."
Maybe Oklahoma — a No. 3 seed with post players five inches taller than their Dayton counterparts — can disrupt this run. But maybe not. Sibert hit the game-winning jumper against Boise State last Wednesday, then scored 15 in a 66-53 win over Providence. Dyshawn Pierre scored 20, Scoochie Smith scored 11 and Providence never threatened over the final eight minutes.
"We feel fine," Pierre said after that game. "We have a great opportunity in front of us now. We’re not focusing on the games we played. We’re focusing on the games we have left."
Dayton played three games in three days last weekend at the Atlantic 10 tournament, and Sunday’s game makes three in five days this week.
"We’ll figure it out," Sibert said. "Whenever we can get rest we’ll get it. We’re just excited to still be here and being able to play."