Posted: 8:17 p.m. Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cinderella Flyers fall to Florida in Elite Eight

By David Jablonski and Brian Kollars

Staff Writer

The Dayton Flyers pulled off three memorable upsets to start the NCAA tournament, knocking off favored Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford.

But three shaky minutes of basketball at the end of the first half Saturday night against Florida put an end to UD’s amazing tourney run.

Florida, the tourney’s top overall seed, turned back the Flyers 62-52 in the South Regional final at FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn.

UD trailed by 14 points at halftime before chipping away at Florida’s lead in the second half. The Flyers got to within 58-50 on a Dyshawn Pierre basket with 3:54 to play, but late UD turnovers and Florida offensive rebounds helped the Gators move on.

Scottie Wilbekin led Florida with 23 points. Pierre had 18 for the Flyers.

Florida, which started four seniors, improved to 36-2 with its 30th straight win. The Gators will meet the winner of today’s Michigan State-Connecticut in the national semifinals next Saturday.

Florida essentially scored a technical knockout in the final three minutes of the first half. The Gators, playing in their fourth straight Elite Eight, put together a 19-3 run heading into the locker room. The flurry was punctuated by Wilbekin’s 3-pointer over Vee Sanford’s outstretched arms just before the buzzer.

“That was a dead-even game going into the last three or four minutes (of the first half),” UD coach Archie Miller said.

UD, which had its eight-game winning streak against the Southeastern Conference snapped, hung tough early and took its only lead, 21-19, when Scoochie Smith connected on a 3-pointer with 6:58 left in the first half.

The Flyers shot just 32 percent from the field in the first half and their leading scorer, Jordan Sibert, was held scoreless.

UD finished the season with a 26-11 record. The 26 victories are the fourth-most in program history. The Flyers’ three winningest seasons:

1951-52 — 28-5 (NIT runner-up)

1950-51 — 27-5 (NIT runner-up)

2008-09 — 27-8 (NCAA second round)


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