You couldn’t have scripted it better. The Flyers with a chance to put an emphatic cap on their postseason bid, lock up a perfect 16-0 record at home this season and send Jordan Sibert off with a resounding victory and a standing ovation. Dayton accomplished everything it could have hoped for tonight, as UD rolled off a decisive 75-59 victory over Rhode Island in front of a very LOWD crowd.
URI came into tonight’s game with a reputation for shutting their opponents down defensively and doing just enough on the offensive end to get the victory. The Rams were allowing just 58.5 points per game, teams shooting at a 40% clip from the floor. UD wasn’t impressed.
The Flyers racked up 75 points, only Kansas, who dropped 76 on Rhody back in December, scored more against the Rams this season. UD shot an astounding 57% from the field, turned the ball over just eight times and got to the line thirty-one times (hitting 77% of their attempts from the stripe). Dayton’s Big Three was once again running on all cylinders and Rhode Island simply didn’t have the horses to keep up. Gem City put the game away for good midway through the second half, cruising to their 23rd win on the season, their 13th in Atlantic Ten play.
After all was said and done, this game was about the lone senior, Jordan Sibert. In his final appearance before the sweatered of UD Arena, he shot the ball flawlessly — connecting on 6-of-6 from the floor, 8-of-8 from the foul line, finishing with a game-high 21 points. A perfect sendoff for one of Dayton’s all-time sharpshooters.
We probably haven’t spent enough time discussing how vital Sibert was to this program the past two seasons. I blame you, the slovenly fans. The Ohio State transfer has unquestionably left an indelible mark on the University of Dayton basketball program. The remarkable success we’ve all witnessed the past two seasons does not happen without him, simple as that.
His shot against Syracuse in the closing moments of last year’s second-round NCAA Tournament game will be replayed for decades, forever encased in UD lore. Sibert’s buzzer-beater against IPFW, his first game in a Dayton uniform, might have been the difference between the NCAA Tournament and the NIT last season. His distinction is secure, he is merely building on it at this point (Sibert will more than likely be named to the Atlantic Ten’s first-team in short time, the first Flyer to be named to the first team since Brian Roberts in 2008).
Jordan Sibert’s arrival two summers ago symbolized a turning point for Dayton hoops. Players of his caliber didn’t play for UD ten years ago, they weren’t even realistically on the radar. The Flyers were previously content to bring in superior athletes, hoping they would somehow evolve into something more complete, more polished, as close to a finished product as possible. It rarely happened.
We should hope for a future where players of Sibert’s ilk are commonplace on UD’s roster without forgetting why he will be a measuring stick for years to come in the first place. Jordan Sibert may have only suited up in the red and blue for two seasons, but he was able to carve out a lasting legacy in that short time frame. He is as much a part of UD’s foundation as anyone who came before him.
With the win, Dayton will finish no worse than second in the conference, a quarterfinal bye assured. Flyer fans will turn their attention to Thursday night’s VCU/Davision game, hoping the slumping Rams can go into North Carolina and take down the Wildcats. A VCU win would mean an outright regular-season title for the Flyers with a victory on Saturday against La Salle. UD has never won a regular-season title while a member of the Atlantic Ten, do with that what you may.
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.