INDIANAPOLIS — Tournament flash: Wichita State can play a little defense, too. Just ask the stunned Flyers.
The Shockers’ powerful offense stalled out until the closing minutes, but their defense carried them through to a 64-58 victory over Dayton on Friday night in the South Regional.
Make it 16 straight wins for the Shockers (31-4), who brought their reputation for piling up the points to Indianapolis, along with the feeling that they’d been slighted by their No. 10 seed.
They made the gritty plays in a game lacking style points.
“It was definitely something a little brand new to us from what we’ve seen in the Missouri Valley,” said Zach Brown, who had 12 points, including a late 3-pointer. “But I don’t know — we’ve just grinded it out. It was a tough game.”
And they were the tougher team.
Dayton (24-8) came in with a wealth of experience, playing in its school-record fourth straight NCAA Tournament. The Flyers start three seniors and have five overall, with a lot of shared tournament moments. This one ranks at the bottom.
The seventh-seeded Flyers were held to a season low in points and shot a season-low 31 percent from the field. They also got outrebounded 48-29 and had eight shots swatted away.
“Of course, you’ve got to give them credit because they’re the ones defending, but I think it’s more about us,” said point guard Scoochie Smith, who had 25 points. “We just had to step up and make shots, and a lot of people on our team couldn’t get their shots to fall, couldn’t get a flow.”
Brown’s 3-pointer put Wichita State up 51-45 with 5:38 left, the biggest lead by either team up to that point, and Dayton never threatened again. Landry Shamet led the Shockers with 13 points.
The Shockers haven’t lost a game since Jan. 14, going two months with nothing but postgame high-fives. They have relied on their offense to carry them, averaging 82.1 points per game. Feeling slighted by their tournament seed, they showed they’re more than a one-trick team.
“All in all, it was a big grind,” Brown said. “And I’m proud, proud of everybody.”
Wichita State: The Shockers scored 80 points a school-record 23 times this season. The 64 points on Friday matched their second-lowest total of the season, but they won anyway.
Dayton: The Flyers’ experienced team includes three senior starters averaging double figures. Aside from Smith, nobody else did much. Smith was 9-of-17 from the field, the rest of the team 9-of-41 (22 percent).
A close one
The Shockers got used to winning comfortably during their streak. The victory Friday was their closest call during the streak. All but two of the wins have come by 15 points or more.
Smith had all the style points for Dayton, including his slide on his back across the baseline after making a layup. He also had an over-the-shoulder pass for a layup that got the many Dayton fans chanting “Scoooooch” again.
Aside from Smith, nobody did much of anything on offense in the first half, which ended with Dayton ahead 29-27. Smith had 15 points, going 6-for-10. Nobody else on either team had more than two baskets or five points. The Flyers shot 34.5 percent from the field, while the Shockers shot 35.7 percent.
- SEC Rises: Football league has 3 teams vying for Elite Eight
- College basketball: Xavier back in Sweet 16 despite season full of setbacks
- NCAA Tournament: Gonzaga turns to defense to stop West Virginia
- NCAA Tournament: Bye, Michigan -- new lovable underdogs are Xavier, SC
- NCAA Tournament: Oregon gets lift from Tyler Dorsey, ends Michigan's magical run
- College basketball: It's over for 'Nova as Wisconsin upsets defending champs
- College basketball: Xavier blows out Florida State to make it back to Sweet 16
- Commentary: NCAA brackets bring more pain than gain
- NCAA Tournament picks up steam just before Sweet 16
- NCAA Tournament: South Carolina erupts in 2nd half, dumps Duke