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Mar 20, 2024 4:19 am

Back on big stage, Dayton meets Nevada in West duel

dayton flyers

No. 7 seed Dayton will make its first NCAA Tournament appearance in seven years when it tips off against No. 10 seed Nevada on Thursday afternoon in the first round of West Region action at Salt Lake City.

Dayton (24-7) finished the regular season with a Top 25 ranking and grabbed third place in the Atlantic 10 before falling the in conference tournament’s quarterfinals. The Flyers are looking for their first tournament win since the 2014-15 campaign, when Archie Miller coached the team.

Dayton guard Koby Brea said, “I think we did a pretty good job throughout the year, and this is an opportunity to show the entire, really all (of) America, what we’re capable of doing. It’s a chance to show what the Dayton Flyers are about.”

Nevada (26-7) also is eager to prove itself on the sport’s biggest stage.

The Wolf Pack tied for second in the Mountain West but took a quarterfinal loss in the conference tournament. They are looking to build upon last season, when they made the First Four of the NCAA Tournament but lost 98-73 to Arizona State.

Nevada coach Steve Alford said he and his players were looking forward to another opportunity in the tournament. The Wolf Pack traveled to Dayton a year ago to face Arizona State, and now they will be closer to home in Salt Lake City to face the Flyers.

“After last year, having to get on a plane and not get to Dayton until 1 o’clock in the morning, (it was tough),” Alford said. “Being this close, staying in the West where our fans can get to, we’re excited about that.”

Alford is no stranger to the NCAA Tournament. He is looking to join Lon Kruger as only the second coach in NCAA history to win at least one tourney game at five different schools. He has won NCAA games at Missouri State, Iowa, New Mexico and UCLA.

Likewise, Dayton features an experienced coach who knows what it takes to win in March. Anthony Grant led VCU to an upset win over Duke in the first round of the 2007 tournament, and he guided Alabama to the tournament for the first time in six years in 2012.

For Grant, who played at Dayton in the 1980s, this invitation carries extra meaning.

“This one feels different,” Grant said. “It’s special. It’s my alma mater.”

Dayton is led by DaRon Holmes II, who is averaging 20.4 points and 8.4 rebounds. Holmes was named as a second-team All-American this week.

Nate Santos is second on the Flyers’ scoring list with 12 points per game. Brea ranks third with 10.9 points per game, and Kobe Elvis is contributing 9.5 points.

Nevada’s top scorer is Jarod Lucas, who is averaging 17.8 points. Kenan Blackshear is next with 15.1 points per game, and Nick Davidson puts up 12.1 points per contest to go along with a team-high 7.3 rebounds. Davidson is shooting 54.9 percent from the floor.

The Thursday game marks the first-ever meeting between Dayton and Nevada, with the winner advancing to face either second-seeded Arizona or 15th-seeded Long Beach State on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

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