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ANALYSIS: Three takeaways from Dayton's victory against Nevada

Mar. 21—SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Dayton Flyers bench exploded in jubilation as Nevada missed its final shot. Players sprinted onto the court to celebrate with their teammates. The coaches started a parade of hugs that would last for several minutes. Javon Bennett and Marvel Allen slapped hands three times in quick succession. DaRon Holmes II grabbed one one of the student managers in a bear hug they'll both remember forever.

After the Flyers walked through the handshake line, the entire coaching staff encircled head coach Anthony Grant. There were tears. There was joy. An victory seven years in the making for Grant — or nine years for the program — brought out all the emotions.

No. 7 seed Dayton erased a 17-point deficit in the final seven minutes to beat No. 10 Nevada 63-60 on Thursday at the Delta Center in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The comeback soothes some of the pain of the cancellation of the 2020 tournament, when one of the great Dayton teams saw its dreams foiled by the pandemic, and eases the disappointment of close calls over the last two seasons as the Flyers fell short of their postseason goals.

For the first time in a long time, the Dayton Flyers captured the nation's attention in the NCAA tournament in one of the most thrilling games on the first full day of March Madness.

"It means everything," Holmes said. "We have a lot of people doubting us, so we went out there and did what we had to do. That's what we're capable of. We're just ready for the next game."

Here are three takeaways from Dayton's 32nd game:

1. Dayton added another comeback to a resume full of them: The Flyers got their season on track with a 15-point comeback in the final 10 minutes against LSU in the Charleston Classic in November. More recently, in their last victory, in fact, they erased a 17-point first-half deficit to beat Virginia Commonwealth. In this game, Dayton trailed 56-39 with 7:39 to play.

At that point, Dayton had a 1.5% chance of winning, according to KenPom.com.

"We stick together," guard Koby Brea said. "In those moments when things get harder, that's when we get closest. We've been in those situations before. We're comfortable in them."

The comeback started with a single free throw by Holmes with 7:14 to play. That ignited a 17-0 run. Holmes had five points in the stretch. Nate Santos had a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 56-53 at the 3:40 mark. Brea made three 3s during the run, including one that tied the game at 56-56 with 2:45 to play.

2. Dayton made big shots in the final minutes: Brea and Santos made back-to-back 3-pointers in the final minute to beat LSU. Brea had the big basket in a victory at Southern Methodist. Kobe Elvis made back-to-back 3-pointers in overtime to lift the Flyers to a victory against VCU.

In this game, Holmes converted a 3-point play with 2:01 to play to give Dayton its first lead since the first half. Then Santos made a go-ahead layup with 34 seconds to play. Santos made two clutch free throws with 15 seconds left to force Nevada to attempt a game-tying a 3-pointer, twice, in the final seconds.

"What a battle. What a battle," Grant said. "Just really proud of our guys. They never quit, showed tremendous resiliency. They've done that a few times this year where the chips weren't in our favor. They found a way. I'm extremely proud of the fight, the grit, the determination that our group showed tonight. That's a good basketball team that we beat. They've had a great year. But our guys never gave up. I'm proud of the way they believed in each other, believed in what we're doing."

3. Nevada seemed to have the victory wrapped up: Dayton led 25-18 after a basket by Isaac Jack with 5:06 left in the first half. Then in the last five minutes, Dayton missed all four of its shot attempts and committed three turnovers. In the same stretch, Nevada made all six of its shot attempts, including three 3-pointers.

The Wolf Pack led 34-25 at halftime and continued its dominance in the second half. Jarod Lucas scored 10 of his 17 points in the first 13 minutes of the second half to lead Nevada to the 56-39 lead. Nevada then went scoreless for more than five minutes. Nevada missed four straight shots and committed three turnovers as Dayton turned up the pressure on defense.

Nevada had been 24-0 when leading at halftime before this loss.

"Congratulations to Dayton," Nevada coach Steve Alford said. "I thought they outplayed us in the first seven of the game and the last seven of the game. Up 17 with seven to go, we get beat 24-4. Great credit to them. They battled. They competed. ...Really, really poor offense the last seven minutes. Very poor defense. When you do that on this stage, you're probably not going to win very many games. That's really what happened tonight. I thought in the middle of that, I thought we played really good basketball."

STAR OF THE GAME

DaRon Holmes II led all scorers with 18 points. He made 5 of 9 field goals and 8 of 9 free throws. He also had nine rebounds and three steals.

STAT OF THE GAME

Dayton shot 42.1% from 3-point range (8 of 19). Brea made 5 of 8, scoring 15 points. Nate Santos, Javon Bennett and Kobe Elvis each made one.

Nevada shot 31.8% (7 of 22), including 3 of 13 (23.1%) in the second half.

LOOKING AHEAD

Dayton will play No. 2 seed Arizona in the second round on Saturday at a time to be announced. Arizona (26-8) beat No. 15 Long Beach State 85-65 in the first game Thursday at the Delta Center.