The Dayton Flyers were on the outside looking in with regards to the NCAA tournament before today, but with a big home win over the UMass Minutemen they improved their resume with another quality win.
Dayton improved to the always sought after 20 win mark (20-9, 8-6) while UMass dropped to 22-6 overall and 9-5 in A-10 play.
Dayton had a balanced attack offensively with five players scoring in double figures. They were led by Jordan Sibert who had a career high with 23 points and shot over 50 percent from the field. The Flyers were helped by the 3-ball going 9-for-20 while the Minutemen only managed a 4-for-11 effort.
Trey Davis had three of UMass' four three-pointers, and those three were from about 30 feet. He led the team with 19 points off the bench and was efficient shooting 6-of-8 from the floor.
It was a tale of two halves for UMass as it controlled the first half thanks to Davis and Sampson Carter, who had seven of the Minutemen's first eight points to start the game but would only score one more basket the rest of the game.
UMass was able to shoot 53 percent from the field, giving them a 37-36 lead in a very fast-paced first half, despite a valiant three-point effort from the Flyers.
The first possession of the second half set the tone for the rest of the game as Sibert drained a three off of a nicely drawn up play from Dayton coach Archie Miller that gave the Flyers a two-point lead. Dayton would not trail again for the rest of the game.
Chaz Williams had the ugliest path to 17 points you will ever see. While he shot a very solid 7-for-8 from the charity stripe, he was just 5-for-17 from the floor and missed all three of this long ball attempts. The Flyers made a concerted effort to smother Williams, which they did effectively, and were able to hold the nation's third-leading assist man to only five helpers, two off of his season average.
UMass was never able to cut the lead to less than three and struggled for defensive stops for the entire second half. Vee Sanford provided a lift off the bench for the Flyer's as he was 6-for-12 from the floor and had 15 points to go with six rebounds -- three of them offensive.
Cady Lalanne picked up his third foul at the 12:34 mark in the second half and UMass coach Derek Kellogg pulled him trailing 51-48. Lalanne was UMass' only inside presence defensively and when he came out Dayton wasted no time exposing the lack of interior defensive and rebounding as they would extend their lead eight quickly.
Lalanne played a physical game and had eight points and eight boards (four offensive) and provided the only line of interior defense with three blocks. Despite his effort Dayton was still able to grab 13 offensive rebounds that gave them the edge in second-chance points.
UMass and Dayton would trade baskets most of the second half with the Flyers lead reaching as many as 12 and never dipped below three. The Minutemen's lack of defensive stops made going on a big run almost impossible.
Dayton was able to handle UMass' press fairly well all game, only committing fourteen turnovers. The Minutemen weren't able to capitalize on these turnovers however, coming up empty on many possessions following a steal.
The Minutemen attempted their final comeback with 5:31 left in the second half as they were trailing 68-56. They would go on a 21-12 run thanks to 12 made free throws and a three-headed attack of Maxie Esho, Davis, and Williams.
Esho provided a much needed spark off the bench for the sluggish Minutemen as he was the focus point on their full court press.
Dayton's Dyshawn Pierre struggled from the stripe shooting just 2-for-8, which helped in the UMass comeback, but finished with 16 points.
Williams forced a steal with 1:08 on the clock and made a driving layup to cut the lead to four. After a Flyer's free throw Williams scored another layup 20 seconds later to cut the lead to 80-77.
That was as close as UMass would get as Dayton would make 6-of-8 free throws in the last 30 seconds to seal the win.
UMass' win over Rhode Island last Wednesday all but guaranteed them a bid into the NCAA tournament, according to ESPN's bracketologist Joe Lunardi who has them as a 6 seed in the Midwest region. Williams will need to shoot the ball much better if the Minutemen want to make a deep run in both the A-10 and NCAA tournaments. Their next game is against an up-and-down Duquesne Dukes team that knocked off St. Louis last week.
Dayton won a must-win game and helps to make their case for a postseason bid. With their next two games against St. Louis and Richmond they have that opportunity to play their way in.