Arizona Wildcats vs. Dayton Flyers Pick & Prediction MARCH 23rd 2024

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The Dayton equipment managers could be excused if they were ready to start packing the bags and loading the bus with 7:39 left in Thursday’s game.

The Flyers trailed Nevada by 17 points and were showing no signs of a comeback or wanting to remain in Salt Lake City for Saturday’s second-round contest.

But Dayton exploded on a game-ending 24-4 run to nab an improbable victory. Now the seventh-seeded Flyers (25-7) will face second-seeded Arizona (26-8) in a West Region contest with a Sweet 16 spot on the line.

Enoch Cheeks scored the go-ahead layup with 34 seconds left and later added two free throws in the 63-60 victory that represents the school’s first NCAA Tournament victory since 2015.

“When we get into situations like this, we just show resilience,” Cheeks said. “We just have a great group of guys who just always fight and fight. Being in this situation before, we just know that if there’s time on the clock, we have a good chance to come back.”

Dayton star Daron Holmes II scored 18 points and Koby Brea added 15 points on five 3-pointers.

Holmes said he expected the Flyers would win despite the huge hole.

“Was never a doubt in our minds,” Holmes said. “We went down a lot. There might be times where we argue on the floor, but at the end of the day we know we have each other. That’s what matters. If you want to win big games, you got to stick together, just with anything.”

The Flyers now get the chance to battle the Wildcats, who rolled to an 85-65 victory over 15th-seeded Long Beach State on Thursday.

Arizona is expected to make a deep run in the tournament but looked tight early in the game and was trailing by five with under 4 1/2 minutes left in the first half before kicking it into gear.

“Hey, the tournament pressure deal is real,” Wildcats coach Tommy Lloyd said. “Anybody that says it’s not is lying to you. I mean, it’s a real thing. That’s one of the things that makes it such a fun tournament to watch. It makes it really hard to play in.”

Kylan Boswell scored 20 points for Arizona and Caleb Love added 18 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.

But Love, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, was just 6-of-17 shooting to continue a four-game slump. He is 13 of 51 (25.5 percent) during the stretch.

“When Caleb is contributing in other ways, it really helps us,” Lloyd said. “Obviously he’s a pretty offensive-centric player. We can all get fixated on that a little bit.”

Oumar Ballo also stood out with 11 points and 13 rebounds for his 19th double-double.

The Wildcats found their stride while outscoring the Beach 44-30 in the second half.

“In the second half we were playing really good defense,” Ballo said. “I felt like our defense always dictates our offense. We just did fast breaks. Have stops like that, you have to celebrate. That’s how we’re having fun every game.”

Only one team is going to find Saturday fun, however.

“It’s a quick turnaround for both teams,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “We’ll try to learn about each other the best we can and we’ll be ready to go on Saturday.”

Arizona has won two of the three previous meetings with Dayton. The most recent was a 76-59 victory in the semifinals of the 2000 Maui Invitational.

–Field Level Media

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