Anthony Solomon watched his current team, the Dayton Flyers, go head to head with his alma mater, Virginia, for 40 minutes Thursday before losing 66-59 in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
There’s no doubt where his loyalty lies now, but Virginia remains a special place for the Dayton assistant coach. He and his wife Tracy are both 1987 UVA grads. Their daughters were born in Charlottesville when Solomon was an assistant coach with the Cavaliers in the mid-1990s.
“A lot of great memories there,” Solomon said. “I did a lot of growing up at UVA. It’s a special place for my family.”
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Dayton (4-1) was playing a top-five team for the first time since 2014 when it faced No. 1 Florida in the Elite Eight. The Flyers never talk about moral victories, but this was one. They proved they can play with anyone.
Virginia, coached by Tony Bennett, was the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament last season and will try to win a Thanksgiving tournament for the sixth straight season Friday when it plays Wisconsin in the championship game.
“Tony’s done a great job with the program,” Solomon said. “They’re consistently one of the top teams in the country. I’m really proud of being a Flyer today, though. In terms of this time of the year and having such a quick prep, to play them after playing Butler last night, our guys responded great. We just didn’t finish the deal as we like to say.”
Dayton ran into one of the nation’s best defenses. The Virginia defense ranks second in the country in efficiency, according to KenPom.com, and last year, it ranked first. It has ranked in the top five in the nation in nine of the last 12 seasons.
“Their defense is consistently good night in and night out,” Solomon said. “We left a couple opportunities on the table. However, they had something to do with that, too. They create a lot of pressure at all five positions. They do a great job with their ball-screen coverages as well as their help positions. Each possession is just a grind. I thought it threw off our guys mentally because it can be a different type of tempo when playing them, but I thought our guys really handled it for the first time being able to see it and go and compete against it this early in the season.”
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