The next time Dayton plays Miami could be when America elects its first transgender President and it will still be too soon (hopefully sex robots will be commonplace by then to soften the blow). Once again, the RedHawks bring in an inferior team to the Sweater Centre and give Dayton all they can handle for forty minutes – in this particular case, thirty-nine minutes and fifty-eight seconds.
Miami had proven itself to be one of the nation’s worst perimeter shooting teams in the nation coming into tonight. So, of course, the RedHawks came out and connected on nearly 60% of their shots in the first half. The Flyers, needless to say, weren’t able to keep pace with the opposition, UD hit just 33% of its attempts in the first frame. Even after being outshot, and outrebounded, Dayton was down just 31-29 headed into the break.
The Flyers came out of the half with their fucking hair on fire, going on a 15-5 run before the first TV timeout, resulting in an eight-point advantage for the home team. UD stretched their lead to eleven with 10:35 left on the clock and it seemed like Archie Miller’s club would cruise to their ninth victory of the season.
Those of us who have followed this program for over a decade, and the series against Miami, knew better.
Sure enough, Miami began to chip away at the lead and the RedHawks were down just three points, 59-56, at the game’s final television timeout. An Eric Washington three-pointer brought the margin to just one, and a steal and fastbreak layup by Abdoulaye Harouna on the following possession gave Miami its first lead since the halftime break.
UD turned the ball over on its two ensuing possessions and MU had the chance to put the game away with forty-seconds left in the game. Miami put the ball in the hands of its best player, Eric Washington, but the diminutive guard’s jumper came up just short. Dayton had the rebound and an opportunity to drive a dagger into Donoher’s heart.
Charles Cooke took the ball up the floor, sized up his defender and attempted to drive to his right. Dayton’s leading scorer was cut off and had to dump the ball off to his closest teammate on the floor, Kyle Davis.
Normally, having the ball in Davis’ hands with one shot to win the ballgame is the last thing you’d want. But, as we know, this is a nonsensical series chockfull of batshit plays that defy logic and decorum. KD dribbled to his left, jump stopped and put up what looked like a one-handed push shot from just inside the elbow. Miami inbounded the ball with two seconds left but the RedHawks desperation heave came up short. UD had their ninth win of the season and Miami was left with a pile of feculence in their stocking.
On paper, this victory will go unnoticed, it’s certainly not a win that will garner attention when Dayton presents their resume to the selection committee in March. However, we routinely assert that avoiding a “bad” loss is oftentimes as important as earning a “good win.” Tonight was clearly a case of shit-the-bed avoidance. The past two seasons have proven this theorem correct. Just a year ago, Dayton was the last at-large team to make the field of 68. Looking back on the season, winning close games against teams like Saint Bonaventure and St. Joe’s was just as vital as the Flyers’ performance in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
The most suitable example of the “bad loss/good win” effect came in Jordan Sibert’s first game in a Flyer uniform. As many of you recall, UD opened the 2013-14 season with a buzzer-beating victory over Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (yes, seriously), incidentally it was a Jordan Sibert three-pointer from the corner that brought home the win. Without that win (or perhaps better said, without avoiding that loss) Dayton likely misses the NCAA tournament that season, the Flyers don’t make their run to the Elite Eight and half of you probably aren’t even reading this.
By the way, it’s crazy to think that Sibert’s three against IPFW might have been the most important shot in this program’s past thirty years. If Sibert misses that shot and UD misses the tournament in 2014, think of how the momentum of this program shifts exponentially. Archie stands to be a very rich man in a year or two based on that shot going through the net.
In sum, getting past Miami is never fun and it is rarely reassuring. It’s no different than a trip to the dentist. You are going to be in pain and the whole experience lasts too long but, unless you are in Mexico, you’ll live to see another day.
UD has one non-conference game remaining, at home against Arkansas next Wednesday. One more chance to get LOWD in 2015.