Arizona starts fast, holds off Dayton to advance

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 24 Mar, 2024 at 04:14 AM

Credit: Gabriel Mayberry-USA TODAY Sports

Caleb Love scored 19 points and Arizona earned a Sweet 16 spot with a 78-68 victory over Dayton on Saturday in West Region play in Salt Lake City.

Pelle Larsson had 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists and Keshad Johnson recorded 13 points and seven rebounds in the second-round game for second-seeded Arizona (27-8). Jaden Bradley added 12 points, three steals and three blocked shots for the Wildcats.

Daron Holmes II had 23 points, 11 rebounds and three steals for the seventh-seeded Flyers (25-8).

Kobe Brea made four 3-pointers and scored 14 points as Dayton lost for the fourth time in its past eight games. Kobe Elvis added 13 points and Enoch Cheeks had 10 for the Flyers.

The Wildcats will face either No. 3 Baylor or No. 6 Clemson in the Sweet 16.

"I think it's a big stage. You want to play in these moments, these big-time games," Love said. "I dreamed of this as a kid, watching March Madness, wanted to be on the stage, and I think I rise to the occasion."

Arizona shot 52.8 percent from the field, including 8 of 18 from 3-point range.

The Flyers made 40.7 percent of their overall attempts, including 7 of 24 from behind the arc.

Dayton trailed by 17 points before rallying to beat No. 10 Nevada in the first round, and the Flyers trailed again by that margin in the first half against the Wildcats.

Arizona's lead was 40-23 after a dunk by Motiejus Krivas with 2:43 left in the first half. Dayton received the wake-up call and Holmes and Brea each canned treys during a half-ending 10-0 burst to trim the deficit to 40-33.

Love had 13 points in the half for Arizona, which shot 64 percent from the field. Holmes had 14 in the half for the Flyers, who shot 35.5 percent over the opening 20 minutes.

Brea knocked down a 3-pointer to pull Dayton within 52-49 with 11:42 remaining before the Wildcats went on a 14-2 run. Bradley capped it with a trey to give Arizona a 66-51 advantage with 6:51 left.

"Just came out with effort and energy," Bradley said of his team's play in the second half. "Dayton is a great team. They pressed up and we had to make adjustments."

The Flyers made one last push on Holmes' three-point play and two free throws from Nate Santos to move within 71-64 with 55.1 seconds left. However, Kylan Boswell and K.J. Lewis each made two free throws to push the margin to 11 as the Wildcats closed it out.

The contest was potentially the final one in a Dayton uniform for Holmes, the Atlantic 10 co-Player of the Year who could depart for the NBA.

"I'm 100 percent behind whatever decision DaRon and his family makes, man," Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. "That guy's been a joy to coach. I wish I could have him for another five years, another 10 years."

--Field Level Media