Dayton falters down the stretch of 72-66 loss to Oklahoma in NCAA Tournament



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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The shots were falling, the crowd was rocking and Dayton was poised to become the sweetheart of the NCAA Tournament again, the first team to reach the round of 16 in consecutive seasons as an 11 seed.

Then the Flyers just couldn't buy a basket.

Dayton went more than nine minutes in the second half without scoring against Oklahoma and lost 72-66 to the Sooners on Sunday.

Injuries, suspensions and academic issues forced the Flyers to play with seven scholarship players most of the season, but they managed to reach the NCAA Tournament and win two games, starting with the First Four at home.

"We just had a couple of plays not go our way," coach Archie Miller said. "And give them credit for making them. But it won't take away from the season. I'll remember this season for as long as I live regardless of how long I coach."

The Sooners used their smothering defense to surge past the Flyers in the second half. Jordan Woodard had 16 points and a steal that set up Buddy Hield for a layup to give Oklahoma a lead it never relinquished with 5:56 left.

"I thought we just took on some individual challenges a little bit within the team concept at that point," said Sooners coach Lon Kruger, who became the second coach to take four schools (Kansas State, Florida and UNLV) to the round of 16.

Third-seeded Oklahoma (24-10) will play Michigan State on Friday at the East Regional in Syracuse, New York.

Hield scored 15 points and had a key block to thwart a Dayton fast break with the Sooners up by four and 1:02 remaining. Oklahoma held Dayton scoreless for 9:04 and without a basket for 10:32 in the second half.

"Yeah, just we just didn't make shots," said senior Jordan Sibert, Dayton's leading scorer on the season who had only seven points. "Had nothing to do with us being tired. Just some shots didn't go in. It's basketball."

Scoochie Smith led Dayton (27-9) with 16 points.

Dayton fell behind by double digits early as the Sooners knocked down three straight 3s to start the game. Playing for the sixth time in 10 days, it was fair to wonder if the Flyers were finally running out of energy, even while getting a boost by another partisan and passionate crowd at Nationwide Arena.

"I think to start the game our legs weren't under us," Miller said. "But I did think we fought hard to get back. And I think the rest of the game was much more like ourselves."

The Flyers steadied themselves in the first half and they were the stronger team to start the second half.

The Flyers scored nine straight points to open a 46-40 lead on Darrell Davis' beat-the-shot-clock 3 at 13:40, prompting Oklahoma to call a timeout. It didn't immediately help. Dyshawn Pierre knocked down another 3 and Dayton had its biggest lead.

Davis finished with 15 points.

A 3 by Bobby Wehrli made it 52-45 at 11:51, and the Flyers' fans were rocking.

"And you could tell when they hit big shots, when they hit 3s and got off our turnovers, and the crowd was going, but we just had to shut them down even though they got the lead late in the game, shut it down and play our ball," Woodard said.

Then Dayton went cold.

The Sooners extended their defense, getting into the passing lanes for two straight steals that led to two straight hoops.

"We lost the game, but one thing that I can say is I'm so proud of my teammates," Sibert said. "I'm so proud of this program and what we've been able to do."

TIP-INS

Eddie Sutton is the only other coach to get to the round of 16 with four schools (Oklahoma State, Kentucky, Arkansas and Creighton), but his first trips to the Sweet 16 came before the tournament expanded to 64 teams. ... Dayton doesn't have a player bigger than 6-foot-6, but usually holds its own on the boards. Not against Oklahoma. The Sooners outrebounded the Flyers 35-23. ... The Sooners are past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009 when Blake Griffin and Co. lost to North Carolina in a regional final in Memphis, Tennessee.

NEXT UP

Oklahoma gets the Spartans for a spot in the Elite Eight.

Dayton looks toward next season and hopes it can keep Miller, 36, who is 90-47 in four seasons with the Flyers.

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