Most Dayton Flyers fans will have no interest in revisiting their team’s last matchup with Tulsa.
For the brave few, keep reading. In 2003, Dayton received a No. 4 seed — then and now its highest placement — in the NCAA tournament. On the downside, it had to travel across the country to Spokane, Wash., to play No. 13 seed Tulsa.
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The Golden Hurricane shot 67 percent in the first half, built a 19-point lead and then survived Dayton’s comeback attempt to win 84-71, ending the season of one of Dayton’s great teams and the careers of seniors Brooks Hall, Nate Green and D.J. Stelly. The Flyers finished 24-6. Their .800 winning percentage remains the program’s best in the last 50 years. It’s still the only Dayton team to win the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Of course, that’s ancient history and will be just a minor subplot at 3:30 p.m. Sunday when Dayton and Tulsa meet again in the Basketball Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
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This game is all about the 2018-19 Flyers, who need a victory to show their four losses in the last five games — three of them to top-25 teams — weren’t for naught.
“We’re focused on us,” junior guard Trey Landers said. “Obviously, Tulsa’s a good team and they’ve beaten some good teams, but it’s about what we do.”
Here are five things to know about the game:
1. Hot team: The Golden Hurricane (8-3) have won three straight games, all at home. They beat Oklahoma State 74-71, No. 15 Kansas State 47-46 and New Orleans 70-60.
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Tulsa ranks 108th in the NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) and 125th in the Pomeroy ratings. Dayton ranks 69th and 75th.
“We’re excited about the chance to go play at the Mohegan Sun,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “I hear it’s a great (event). It’ll be my first experience going to it, but I’ve heard good things about it and obviously, we’re playing a great opponent in Tulsa. I know Frank Haith. He does a very good job with his team. He’s got them playing very well, coming off two big wins against Kansas State and Oklahoma State. It’ll be another great game for our guys.”
2. Solid program: Tulsa has produced one losing season in the previous 12 seasons and seven 20-win seasons in that span. It was 19-12 last season.
This is the fifth season for Haith, the former Miami Hurricanes and Missouri Tigers coach. When Grant was at Alabama, his team beat Haith’s Miami team 79-64 in the quarterfinals of the 2011 NIT. Haith and Grant coached against each other five times between 2012 and 2014 in Southeastern Conference play with Missouri beating Alabama three times.
3. Dayton’s mindset: The Flyers lost their last game 82-72 at No. 8 Auburn on Dec. 8. That loss followed a familiar script. Dayton was competitive — as it was against No. 6 Virginia, Oklahoma, a team on the cusp of the top 25, and No. 18 Mississippi State — but not quite good enough.
Big-time players hurt the Flyers in each of those games. Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter scored 23. Oklahoma’s Christian James scored 21. Mississippi State’s Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 21. Auburn’s Bryce Brown scored 34.
The Flyers are still trying to figure things out, Grant said.
“We’ve had some tough, challenging games,” he said. “We’ve been close in games, but we haven’t been able to get those tough victories we need. We’re coming off a tough loss against Auburn. Right now, it’s more about taking care of ourselves and trying to figure out what we need to do to make that next step as a team.”
4. Different venue: Dayton will visit the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., on Saturday. That’s a 70-mile drive from Mohegan Sun Arena, a 10,000-seat facility located inside a casino. The facility has hosted the WNBA All-Star Game five times and annually hosts the American Athletic Conference women’s basketball tournament.
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5. Depth advantage: Nine Tulsa players average double-figure minutes, and none play more than 27 minutes per game.
Dayton has eight scholarship players, but plays largely a seven-man rotation. Freshman Frankie Policelli has received limited minutes in Dayton’s last two games. Four of Dayton’s starters average more than 30 minutes per game.
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