Dayton went into Thursday night's game at Richmond knowing that they needed a tough win, especially on the road, to improve their resume in regards to a possible at-large bid. Having dropped six games by four points or less (five of which came on the road) they needed to find some way in which to reverse that luck. All they were able to do is add another line to the list, losing 60-56 at Robins Center despite out-rebounding the Spiders 44-25 on the night. The issues for Dayton have been two-fold and Thursday night was simply the most recent example. The Flyers haven't shot consistently from the field (34% against Richmond) and they've turned the ball over as well (19 TOs, converted into 20 Richmond points). When 32% of your possessions end with a turnover you're in trouble.
Chris Johnson led Dayton with 13 points and nine rebounds off the bench and Marcus Johnson (10 points) was the other Flyer in double figures. The Spiders, who will have one of the four first-round byes in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, were led by Kevin Anderson (22 points) and David Gonzalvez (14 points). A problem for Dayton on this night: attempting more than a third of their shots from behind the arc, which is more an indictment of the tempo at which the game was played (62 possessions) than the shot selection of Brian Gregory's team. There are plenty of athletes who can run the floor on this team; getting drawn into a half-court game by a team like Richmond will get Dayton in trouble.
"We had too many empty possessions," said Gregory. "Twenty turnovers in a low-possession game works out to just about a turnover every other possession (quote courtesy of the University of Dayton)."
But they can ill-afford to worry about this result with Saint Louis visiting in the regular season finals. The Billikens won in overtime in the first meeting, a game very few expected Rick Majerus' young team to win. "The only thing we can afford to do is regroup, get back to Dayton and work toward getting a win on Saturday against Saint Louis," noted Gregory. And unfortunately for he and his team they're running out of opportunities to bolster their resume.
Three Key Happenings
1. A wild quarterfinal round drops three of the top four seeds in the Atlantic Sun. The quarterfinal round of the Atlantic Sun Tournament is in the books and it's a round many will point to as a clear answer in regards to how crazy March can be. Both lower-seeded teams won on Thursday night, with Mercer knocking off Belmont and East Tennessee State dropping Campbell. Adding these two to Kennesaw State beating Lipscomb yesterday and all of a sudden Jacksonville may come to the conclusion that they've got a clear path to the automatic bid.
Not so fast, especially considering that they'll be playing a virtual road game on Friday night against host Mercer. James Florence and Daniel Emerson combine to make up one of the better inside/outside tandems in the A-Sun. As for the Bucs, who take on the aforementioned Owls tomorrow, Micah Williams went off for 32 points to make the Camels pay for guard Lorne Merthie's cold night (3-13 FG). With conventional favorites Lipscomb and Belmont gone this is anyone's tournament but give the early edge to Mercer since they're the host school. Don't be surprised if the Bears end up cutting down the nets.
2. Ashton Gibbs' heroics clinch a double-bye for Pittsburgh. Providence was just 3.5 seconds away from a huge upset victory for Keno Davis' team. But as the Friars have shown this season they can leave the door open for foes, and they've been made to pay for it. Pittsburgh, thanks to Ashton Gibbs, simply became the most recent opponent to highlight Providence's inability to finish, and they also clinched the final double-bye for the upcoming Big East Tournament. Gibbs (25 points), Jermaine Dixon (24 points, 12 rebounds) and Brad Wanamaker (10 points, 13 assists) helped Pitt survive a putrid night from the foul line (3-10), but truth be told the Friars could have put things away had they made more foul shots themselves (13-23). The Panthers know firsthand that having the double-bye doesn't mean automatic success since they had it last year and lost to West Virginia in their first game. But the majority of coaches would be more than willing to take their chances with it.
3. Coastal Carolina and Winthrop take care of business to move on to the Big South final. The Chanticleers did as expected and routed UNC Asheville in front of a partisan crowd in the second game of Thursday's doubleheader. However it won't be defending champion Radford who they take on for the third time this season in Saturday's final. That's because Randy Peele's Winthrop Eagles did an outstanding job on the defensive end to neutralize Art Parakhouski, winning 61-46. Radford shot just 25% overall and 2-18 (11.1%) from beyond the arc.
The poor perimeter shooting allowed Winthrop the luxury of sagging defensively and taking away the paint, and despite double-doubles from Parakhouski (11 points, 18 rebounds) and Joey Lynch-Flohr (17 points, 11 rebounds) the Highlanders didn't have enough offensively to take care of Winthrop. But while the Eagles have the ability to defend they're going up against a far more versatile offensive team in Coastal Carolina on the Chanticleers' home floor. They'll need Thursday night's effort and then some if they're to pull off the upset on the road.
Top Three Games
1. Pittsburgh 73, Providence 71 See above.
2. Drake 63, Southern Illinois 61 A Josh Young jumper with one second remaining gave Drake their third win of the season over the Salukis, and their reward is a matchup with regular season champ Northern Illinois on Friday. Carlton Fay led SIU with 14 points.
3. Michigan St 67, Penn St 65 The Spartans avoided losing to the Nittany Lions in East Lansing for the second consecutive season behind 16 points from Raymar Morgan and 14 from Draymond Green. Talor Battle and Chris Tabb scored 16 apiece to lead the Lions.
Three Notable Performances
1. F Jamine "Greedy" Peterson (Providence) The redshirt sophomore was sensational in a losing effort for the Friars, scoring 24 points and grabbing 18 rebounds.
2. F Herb Pope (Seton Hall) Pope helped lead the Pirates to an 85-74 win over in-state rival Rutgers with 22 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks.
3. G Brandon Fields (Nevada) Fields finished with 32 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in the Wolf Pack's 100-92 win over New Mexico State.