You may ask yourself, how did we get here? Well, the results of Saturday's George Washington-Dayton game, along with other results around the Atlantic 10 Saturday, led to the exact same matchup being played three days later in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Championship.
Had George Washington realized after Saturday's 75-59 defeat to the Flyers that the same matchup was possible, the Colonials could have canceled their flight and stayed in town for a couple more days instead of flying back to DC Saturday night and flying right back to Dayton on Monday.
As is the case with many conference tournaments that hold games on campus sites, the quick turnaround from the regular-season to the post-season can be hard on the folks in the ticket office. Just over 6,000 people, not even half of what Dayton usually attracts for a home game, came out to see a repeat of a game from three days earlier.
From the perspective of a non-season ticket owner, this was a great game to attend. I went to the auxiliary parking area across the Great Miami River where non-season ticket owners are usually forced to park because the giant lot around the arena is usually reserved for season-ticket holders with parking passes. The lonely attendant there told me that for tonight, parking at the arena was free and open to everyone. Walking up to the ticket office, I was able to get a lower level ticket in the 200 level near center court, about 25 rows up from the court. It was obviously a seat that a season-ticket holder would have, but elected not to buy that evening.
There's always an interesting dynamic in conference tournament games on campus sites. Many conferences insist on treating the game like a neutral site game, even if the site was chosen on who had the higher seed. The PA announcer has to be neutral instead of hyping the home team. Starting lineups are introduced in alternating fashion instead of visitors first, home team second so the home team can do their light show, video package, etc. Some conferences require the home school to leave extra sections available to the visiting team, students and band. This wasn't a necessity at UD, as George Washington barely had enough fans to fill the two rows behind the team bench.
It was my first opportunity to hear the Dayton band at full strength for basketball. I did hear a slimmed down version over Christmas Break and heard some version of it at an NCAA volleyball tournament game. They bring good energy with their cheers, although the "Iceland Olympic Team" warm-ups they wear could use some revamping. One notable song they played was "Neck," otherwise known as "Talking out the Side of Your Neck," by Cameo. A staple of HBCU bands and other bands in the South, it takes a really strong brass section to pull it off, and the Flyer Pep Band did a nice job. They wouldn't put much fear into the Alabama State band, but few bands would.
Dayton got out to a quick lead based on some sloppy early play by George Washington. An Alex Gavrilovich dunk gave the Flyers an early 9-2 lead and forced first-year Colonial head coach Mike Lonergan to call time-out. The time-out stemmed the momentum a bit, but by the time 11 minutes had passed, the lead was up to 11, 23-12, a double-digit lead that would not be relinquished until halftime. Shooting 7-24 with 11 turnovers is not a good method of advancing to the next round.
When describing Dayton's team this year, consistent would not be a word used. You're not exactly sure what you're going to get game-to-game, half-to-half, heck minute-to-minute. They've beaten some really good teams like Temple, Saint Louis and Alabama. The Flyers have also lost to some really bad teams like Miami U. and Rhode Island. In typical team character, Dayton's 14-point lead was quickly chopped to five within five minutes of the second half.
That's where the UD Arena home court advantage kicked in. Dayton is renowned for having some of the best fans in the sport and tonight proved why. Even with half the number of fans as usual, the Flyer faithful were not hesitant to get on their feet and cheer to give Dayton some energy, even with 14 minutes still remaining in the game. The Red Scare student section, also in smaller numbers then usual, tried to do their part. The large scowling picture of Dayton alumna Jon Gruden would get a reaction from anyone, and their chant of "I believe that you will miss!" during a Colonial free throw got a chuckle out of me, even if the attempted psyche out proved to be unsuccessful.
The lead would never shrink below five, and with seven minutes remaining, the Flyers started to pull away to their eventual 67-50 victory. The differential was only one point different than Saturday's game, proving that Tuesday's game was really the same as it ever was.
With a couple of minutes remaining, the Red Scare started a "We want Xavier" chant, something they will get when the two teams meet in Atlantic City on Friday. It's a shame that the rubber game in this year's series will be 600 miles from either school's campus. It would be great if that game was at Millett Hall in Oxford, which is within an hour of both campuses, with half the seats available for each school. The environment for that game would truly be, once in a lifetime.
at DAYTON 67, GEORGE WASHINGTON 50 03/06/2012
GEORGE WASHINGTON 10-21 (5-11) -- T. Taylor 3-11 0-0 6; D. Pellom 7-13 4-7 18; L. Kromah 4-10 0-0 9; B. Bynes 2-5 2-2 7; N. Mikic 1-6 0-0 3; D. Smith 2-5 2-2 6; J. Edwards 0-3 0-0 0; A. Ware 0-2 1-2 1; D. Guest 0-0 0-0 0; J. Davis 0-0 0-0 0; J. Kopriva 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-55 9-13 50. DAYTON 20-11 (9-7) -- D. Oliver 8-13 2-3 19; K. Dillard 5-8 2-2 13; C. Johnson 3-9 2-2 9; P. Williams 2-4 6-6 10; M. Kavanaugh 0-2 4-4 4; J. Parker 3-5 2-3 10; A. Gavrilovic 1-2 0-0 2; L. Fabrizius 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-43 18-20 67.
Three-point goals: GW 3-14 (T. Taylor 0-2; B. Bynes 1-2; D. Pellom 0-1; L. Kromah 1-5; N. Mikic 1-4), UD 5-14 (P. Williams 0-2; J. Parker 2-4; C. Johnson 1-4; K. Dillard 1-3; D. Oliver 1-1); Rebounds: GW 26 (D. Pellom 10), UD 30 (D. Oliver 8); Assists: GW 10 (T. Taylor 3), UD 13 (K. Dillard 8); Total Fouls -- GW 19, UD 17; Fouled Out: GW-None; UD-None.