UD’s depth carries it deep in NCAA Tournament

UD vs. Stanford
UD vs. Stanford. (AP Photo)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) – These Dayton Flyers do not come with an easy scouting report.

Dayton coach Archie Miller used 12 players during the team’s 82-72 victory over Stanford on Thursday night, and 11 of them scored.

That depth has been a big reason the 11th-seeded Flyers (26-10) are still playing in the NCAA tournament’s South Region, and will face top-seeded Florida (35-2) on Saturday in the Elite Eight.

As the games get more important and intense, many coaches shorten their bench.

Not Miller. He said early in the year it was apparent the Flyers had about a dozen guys who could play and they all could be a star on a given night.

Jordan Sibert, who scored 18 points against Stanford, said he has no problem sharing playing time.

“Sacrifice is a part of winning, and you have to do whatever it takes to win,” Sibert said. “That’s one thing that we’ve all been able to come to an agreement on — whatever it takes to win.”

And the Flyers are winning a lot lately. They’ve already had a historic run, making the Elite Eight for the first time since 1984. Along the way they’ve knocked off in-state rival Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford.

Now it’s time to face the formidable Gators. Florida has won 29 straight games — a streak that’s lasted nearly four months — and has a veteran starting lineup with few weaknesses.

“We’re going to have more than our hands full tomorrow,” Miller said.

Dayton might not be quite as talented as Florida, but the Flyers certainly have plenty of bodies to throw at that problem.

Sibert was the star against Stanford, shooting 7 of 12 from the field. The 6-foot-4 junior had plenty of help come from all over the roster.

Freshman Kendall Pollard scored a season-high 12 points and sophomore Devon Scott made a couple clutch inside baskets in the second half to stave off the Cardinal’s final comeback attempt.

Even Alex Gavrilovic — who hadn’t played in seven straight games before Thursday — gave the Flyers four minutes when the team’s starters got into some foul trouble.

Every time Miller went to his bench, it seemed like the Flyers just got better. The red and blue waves kept coming, and Stanford slowly wore down by the end of the night.

“No one rolls their eyes. No one points their fingers,” Miller said. “They don’t argue at one another. It’s just been a very unique group. I don’t know if a lot of groups could pull this off, but we’ve got good kids.”

Miller said that even before the season started, he said there would be no true starters. Dayton had lost several close games last year and Miller didn’t want the emphasis put on the beginning of games.

“We don’t need starters,” Miller said. “We need finishers.”

Dayton’s depth and big wins in the NCAA tournament certainly have caught Florida’s attention. Gators center Patric Young said the Flyers’ double-digit seed is irrelevant and bristled at the notion that Dayton was a sizable underdog.

“They beat Ohio State and Syracuse — two teams that have proven themselves historically and this season on how good they are,” Young said. “If Dayton can beat them, maybe they should worry about us being the underdogs.”


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