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Wright, Dayton Fly Past West Virginia 68-60

6:28 PM, Mar 20, 2009   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- It would be hard to imagine a player and moniker meshing more seamlessly than Chris Wright and the Dayton Flyers.

With dunks exceeded in ferocity only by the altitude of their apex, Wright lifted Dayton to heights not seen on its Ohio campus in nearly 20 years.

Wright scored a career-high 27 points and had 10 rebounds to lead the 11th-seeded Flyers to a 68-60 win over sixth-seeded West Virginia on Friday in the Midwest Regional, their first victory in the NCAA tournament since 1990.

"We didn't need a Superman effort from anybody," coach Brian Gregory said. "But it was nice to get a couple of them."

Charles Little added 18 points for once-mighty Dayton (27-7), which had been 1-13 against coach Bon Huggins' teams dating to his days storming up and down the Cincinnati sideline.

These Flyers weren't as easily intimidated by his huffing and puffing.

They'll play third-seeded Kansas in the second round Sunday. The Jayhawks defeated North Dakota State 84-74 earlier in the day.

"There's times that we don't play very well," Gregory said. "But we never back down."

Darryl Bryant had 21 points and Devin Ebanks added 14 points and 12 rebounds for West Virginia (23-12), which had won at least two games in the NCAA tournament in each of its last four appearances.

Wright, the highest of the Flyers from Dayton, threw down a one-handed goal-shaker off an inbounds pass and then a soaring tomahawk dunk in transition for a 46-37 lead with 14 minutes left in the game. He converted two three-point plays off dunks, with teammaf two teams perfectly content to trade hand checks, hip pointers and the occasional elbow down low.

"We had a lot of chances to take the lead in the game," Butler said. "Me myself, I had a bunch of opportunities to help the team go over the hump and be up by one or two, but just didn't do it and we lost."

Believe it or not, the Flyers used to be anything but a "mid" major. Dayton has played in the NCAA tournament 14 times, advanced to the regional semifinals six times and lost to mighty UCLA in the national championship in 1967.

Gregory was hired off Tom Izzo's staff at Michigan State in 2004 to bring some consistency back to a program that had qualified for the tournament only twice the previous 15 seasons.

The Flyers made it to the tourney in Gregory's first season, but missed the next five times before returning this year with a balanced team that regularly plays 12 to keep up its frenetic defensive pace.

And now they have a date with the defending national champions in the second round.

"It's hard to even put into words right now, to be honest with you," Gregory said.

Dayton was at its best in the first half against West Virginia, holding the Mountaineers to 32 percent shooting and forcing seven turnovers to take a 33-28 lead.

West Virginia's two leading scorers -- Butler and Alex Ruoff -- both had off games against Dayton's smothering defense. Butler finished with 13 points on 4-for-13 shooting and Ruoff had just nine while battling foul trouble.

"It hurts 'cause everything is over," Ebanks said.

 

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