Although the Dayton Flyers say last year’s run to the Elite Eight gave them a wealth of knowledge to bank on in this year’s NCAA Tournament, one player admits he has learned a valuable new lesson this postseason.
“I now double knot my pants,” Dyshawn Pierre said a bit sheepishly Saturday. “You won’t see that happen again.”
The soft-spoken forward from Canada was talking about the incident last Wednesday night that suddenly made him the most famous Flyer.
It happened when his basketball trunks got yanked to his ankles as he was leaping up for a rebound against Boise State in a First Four game at UD Arena.
Actually, the foot of teammate Kyle Davis, also going up for the rebound, became entangled in Pierre’s pants and that quickly left the 6-foot-6 junior cradling the basketball in the crook of his right arm as he used his left hand to reach down and pull his trunks back up over his white undergarments.
The move was caught by television cameras and still photographers and soon became a social media hit.
“I got a couple of wild responses,” Pierre said with a shrug. “I saw it on ESPN and TMZ was going to do a story on it. And I had someone actually reenact the picture, that was pretty funny.”
So going into tonight’s NCAA Tournament game with Oklahoma at Nationwide Arena, the 27-8 Flyers have imitators and vocal supporters — Dayton fans turned the downtown Columbus arena into UD Arena East in the 66-53 victory over Providence late Friday night — and they even have an admirer on the opposing bemch.
“What they’ve done the last few years with Coach Miller is fantastic,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said Saturday. “He’s done a terrific job and they certainly win. Their players carry themselves like they expect to win and they have won. I think everyone looks at Dayton with a great deal of respect.”
That primarily goes back to last season when the Flyers captured the imaginations of the college basketball world — and certainly the hearts of their own city — by topping Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford in the NCAA Tournament before eventually falling to Florida.
This year they’ve now topped Boise State and Providence.
Coming into tonight’s game, that makes them 5-1 in the NCAA Tournament over two years..
And that was a point Archie Miller brought home to his team before it played No. 6 seed and slightly favored Providence here.
Senior guard Jordan Sibert said their coach told them they’ve won four tournament games and Providence hadn’t won any.
“And in that we were able to turn it on and keep it on,” Sibert said. “It’s all a mindset. Winning is a mindset and now we understand how to do it. Especially after last year, you kind of get used to the feeling of what it’s like to be on the biggest stage in college basketball. You get used to the lights and you get used to just being in the atmosphere.”
Miller agreed: “There are five players — Bobby (Wehrli) didn’t play last year — who played the majority of our minutes last year that have five NCAA Tournament wins (now). That’s a heck of a deal. It’s hard to get one win let alone five of them. And I think when they take the floor they know what it feels like.
“Last year created a confidence and it’s carried over to this year. “
Pierre, though, saw a difference between the two seasons: “We were excited last year, but we maybe were a little more unsure of what to expect. Now we know what it’s like: The fans and the atmosphere and just grinding out each war to make sure we come out on top.”
With that experience, the 11th-seeded Flyers don’t especially like to be called a Cinderella team, as some folks nationally have done.
“Some people may see our seed and think that, but for us we’ve been here before,” said Wehrli. “We’re no Cinderella story.”
Sophomore forward Kendall Pollard felt the same way: “The rest of the country should feel that way too, but obviously some of them don’t. But that doesn’t bother me.
“What (ticks) me off is Charles Barkley picks us to lose every game — even when we keep winning. I don’t know, maybe he needs to listen to Clark Kellogg.”
Sibert shrugged all of that off:
“You can call us whatever you want, you just can’t call us somebody who loses. You can say what you want, but you can’t say we’re out of the tournament.”