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Maui Invitational history: Beating Gonzaga a highlight for Dayton in 2013

All 8 of this year's Maui Invitational Coaches.
All 8 of this year's Maui Invitational Coaches.

Performance in Maui foreshadowed Elite Eight run

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final part in a three-part series of stories looking back at the Dayton Flyers’ previous appearances in the Maui Invitational. UD returns to the event Monday with a first-round game against Georgia.

Six years ago, the Dayton Flyers built a strong NCAA tournament resume with a third-place finish at the Maui Invitational, showing early glimpses of the talent that would be on display during their Elite Eight run four months later.

» UD’S MAUI HISTORY: 2000 | 2003

The Flyers return to the Maui Invitational this month, opening with a first-round game against Georgia at 2:30 p.m. Monday (9:30 a.m. Maui time). Here’s a review of the team’s performance in 2013:

Setting the scene: There was a lot of pressure on Archie Miller in his third season as head coach. The Flyers finished 20-13 and made the NIT in his first season but then slipped to 17-14 in his second season.

» MAUI FIELD: What fans need to know

The debut of a promising transfer, Jordan Sibert, and a strong freshman class featuring Scoochie Smith, Kendall Pollard and Kyle Davis raised expectations for Dayton in year three of the Miller era. Dayton opened the season with four straight victories, including a road win at Georgia Tech on the way to Maui.

Biggest victory: Dayton opened the tournament with an 84-79 victory against No. 11 Gonzaga.

Dayton trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half but cut the deficit to nine points by halftime. The Flyers made 8 of 13 3-pointers in the second half and led by as many as nine points.

» RELATED: Ranking quality of Dayton’s exempt tournaments over the years

Khari Price made two free throws with 4.6 seconds to play to clinch the win. Sibert led Dayton with 23 points.

"It is a pleasure to be around guys who just won't quit, " Miller said. "The final minutes we had guys step up and make plays in-bounds vs. the press, and Dyshawn Pierre canning 4 straight free throws in the final 22 seconds was huge."

Toughest loss: The Flyers lost 67-66 to No. 18 Baylor in the second round. Vee Sanford missed a shot with 2 seconds left, and a tip-in by Devin Oliver rolled off the rim as time expired.

"I don't know how I missed it," Oliver said.

Dayton led by as many as 14 points in the first half and had a 10-point advantage with seven minutes to go.

"For about 30 minutes in that game our guys looked about as good as any team in college basketball," Miller said.

Coach's summary: "If you had told me we'd come back 3-1 (counting the Georgia Tech game), I would tell you that's a job well done. The way we handled the trip, the way we handled the travel, the way we were mature in approaching Maui, we were really ready to go out there and compete. Not only did we compete, we got better."

What it meant: The victory over Gonzaga coupled with a dominant performance in an 82-64 victory against California in the third-place game vaulted Dayton into the top 25 for the first time since 2009. They were ranked No. 25 but fell out of the rankings after losing to Illinois State on Dec. 7. Gonzaga ranked 24th in the final Ken Pomeroy ratings that season, and California was 60th. Those victories helped Dayton earn at-large berth in the NCAA tournament, and they reached the Elite Eight for the first time in 30 years.