Five years after being on the wrong end of one of the craziest finishes in UD Arena history, Purdue Fort Wayne returns to Dayton at 7 p.m. Friday. It’s unlikely the script writers will pen anything as dramatic as what happened on Nov. 9, 2013.
In the first game of that season, which would end with the Dayton Flyers in the Elite Eight, Jordan Sibert hit a 3-pointer with one second to play to give Dayton an 81-80 victory over the program then known as Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne. That was only the last part of an unforgettable sequence.
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Here’s the description from the Dayton Daily News the next day:
With 6 seconds left, IPFW attempted a long inbounds pass to midcourt. Dayton guard Khari Price outjumped teammate Vee Sanford and IPFW’s Michael Kibiloski. Price caught the ball and then belly-flopped near the Dayton Flyers logo.
Price pushed the ball forward to freshman Kyle Davis, who passed to Sibert. Nine seconds earlier, Sibert had clanked the first of two free throws when he needed to make both to tie the game.
“When Khari made that play, I thought to myself, ‘If I get a chance, I have to redeem myself for that free throw,’ “ Sibert said. “I know Kyle is a very unselfish player, just like Khari is. I knew if I could get to an open area I could make the shot.”
Without Sibert’s shot, Dayton may not have even made the NCAA tournament that season. It laid the foundation for an unprecedented run of success in UD basketball history: four straight NCAA tournament appearances and 102 victories in a four-year span. It was the first college game for freshmen Scoochie Smith, Kyle Davis and Kendall Pollard.
That’s ancient history now even if it wasn’t that long ago because no Dayton players or coaches remain from that game, and a new team, off to a 2-0 start in Anthony Grant’s second season, is trying to forge an identity as the Mastodons return to UD Arena. Here are five storylines to follow Friday:
1. Dayton should see Josh Cunningham make his season debut: After missing two games with a hand injury, Cunningham returned to practice this week. As of Tuesday, Dayton coach Anthony Grant expected Cunningham, Dayton’s leading scorer last season, to be available for this game.
“I can’t wait to get Josh back on the floor,” junior guard Trey Landers said.
2. Fort Wayne’s difficult schedule continues: The Mastodons (2-2) lost 96-71 at UCLA in their season opener Nov. 6 and fell 107-61 at Ohio State on Sunday. Both those teams rank in the top 50 of the Ken Pomeroy ratings.
The game against Ohio State was competitive for 20 minutes . Fort Wayne trailed 41-34 at halftime but allowed 66 points in the second half.
Fort Wayne has also defeated two Division III schools, routing Earlham 112-51 and Manchester 111-65.
“You got to try and find balance in your schedule and I didn’t do a really good job of that when I scheduled Ohio State, UCLA and Dayton,” Fort Wayne coach Jon Coffman told the Journal Gazette, “but we’re trying to simulate a little bit of what we’re going to get in the Summit League.”
3. The Mastodons are capable of pulling off an upset: Fort Wayne won 71-68 in overtime at Indiana two years ago and then beat former Dayton coach Archie Miller and Indiana 92-72 last season.
Fort Wayne has compiled a streak of five straight winning seasons, and it has won 20 or more games three times in that span. The 2013-14 team that almost upset Dayton set a school record with 25 victories. However, the program has not made it to the NCAA tournament since moving to Division I in 2001-02.
4. Dayton seeks first three-game winning streak since 2017: The Flyers had two two-game winning streaks last season and five two-game losing streaks. The last time, they had a three-game streak of any sort — wins or losses — came at the end of the 2016-17 season, which ended with losses to George Washington, Davidson and Wichita State.
5. The schedule gets tougher after this game for Dayton: Dayton has won seven straight home games. This is its third straight home game to start the season. Next week, it heads to the Bahamas for three games in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Dayton is the second-lowest ranked team in that field. The average Pomeroy rating of the eight teams is 58.75. No. 104 Dayton plays No. 30 Butler in the first game Wednesday and then No. 4 Virginia or No. 162 Middle Tennessee State in the second game. Dayton’s final opponent will be No. 18 Wisconsin, No. 23 Florida, No. 42 Oklahoma or No. 87 Stanford.
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