Coming into last night’s game it was evident that the two best players on the floor were going to be LaDontae Henton and Kris Dunn. Henton, a four-year starter, was the Friars leading scorer and surely too much for UD’s “bigs” to handle. Dunn was named the Big East’s Co-Player of the Year and will be making a decision about whether or not to leap to the NBA this spring. Dayton was playing its fifth game in eight days, having already staved off elimination two night’s ago against Boise State. It seemed like Providence had every advantage.
But that crowd, red, lowd and prowd. The Sweater Nation will travel to every corner of the earth to support their Flyers. Be it Maui, Memphis or Minneapolis, the Sweaters will come. Regardless of what college basketball writers tell you, this is a very good thing. Traveling to support your basketball team is not a shameful act worthy of admonishment.
So that was the way the stage was set before the last game of the first round — the Friars had the players, the Flyers had the fans.
Dayton also had Kyle Davis. It was Davis who locked up and frustrated Kris Dunn, Providence’s catalyst, from the tip to the handshake line. It was Kyle Davis who shut down Dunn’s penetration, forcing the Friars to handle their business further out from the rim than they are accustomed to.
So much of Providence’s offense this season was predicated on Dunn finding lanes to attack, drawing help defense and dishing to the open man for a good look. KD assured that PC was going to have to work for every point they got.
When the game was over, Dunn had accounted for seven of the Friars’ turnovers and shot just 4-of-13 from the field. He spent the closing seconds of the contest on bench, fouled out and tapped out.
Dunn’s long night spelled doom for LaDontae Henton. Instead of getting the ball on the blocks where he is most effective, the former UD verbal commit was reduced to chucking long-range bombs from the top of the circle. The lefty jacked up thirteen threes and had only three buckets within twenty-three feet of the basket. His two three-pointers when the game was well in hand padded his stats, Henton was a dismal 5-for-24 from the floor up to that point.
Offensively, the Flyers finally shook off their shackles and attacked the rim. Dyshawn Pierre in particular was aggressive, continually going down low for points. Pierre finished with a game-high twenty points and pulled down nine boards. Dayton’s offensive combativeness frustrated the slower Friars and led to thirty foul-shots for the boys in red, a huge advantage when points come as a premium like they did last night.
Of course, it was Dayton’s defense that won the day. UD caged the Friars’ star duo and the rest fell into place. It was a dominant defensive performance, a complete lockdown of two of the nation’s best players.
This was the Flyer’s fifth NCAA victory over the last two seasons (and yes, I’m counting the PIG triumph for my own selfish purposes), which is an amazing sentence to type. For a fan base that suffered mightily over the past few decades, and earned all the good karma coming their way, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Archie now sets his gaze onto Oklahoma, as Dayton prepares to play its sixth game in ten days. STAY RED. STAY LOWD.
Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o' D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.