April 8, 2009
Having had more than a week to come to terms with the fact their season came to an end in the NCAA Tournament, the disappointment has started evolving into something more positive for the Dayton Flyers.
In fact, little could be done to spoil what was a truly entertaining run to a 27-8 overall record and led the Flyers to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2004 and advanced to the NCAA Second Round for the first time in 19 years.
Though disappointed, the Flyers understand what they've accomplished.
"Obviously, disappointed for this season to end because this has been such a great group to be around, not just when the season started, but back in a lot of these guys with the bus trip home last year from Columbus after losing in the NIT quarterfinals," Gregory said.
Head coach Brian Gregory deserves credit for keeping a team together that battled through injuries and the most grueling portion of the schedule at the end, yet he always believed that whatever group of players he had on a given night could win.
That belief stemmed from the Flyers' calling card all season long: defense and rebounding. UD held all but five teams under their scoring average, were 22-3 when out-rebounding the opponent and limited the opposition to fewer than 50 percent shooting from the floor in all but three games.
Individually, a few Flyers had breakout seasons.
Chris Wright earned a Second Team, All-Atlantic 10 selection and a First Team All-NABC spot, while Marcus Johnson secured a spot on the A-10 Honorable Mention Team. In addition, Chris Johnson made the All-Rookie Team and London Warren named to the All-Defensive Team.
But this year's team was also about depth and dimension.
Rob Lowery, who was injured in the first meeting against Xavier, finished the year as the team's fourth leading scorer and hit some clutch shots down the stretch. Kurt Huselman contributed strongly on the defensive end and add regular contributions off the bench from Mickey Perry, Stephen Thomas, Luke Fabrizius, Paul Williams and Devin Searcy, the Flyers certainly earned their sustainable success.
What is even more fascinating is UD accomplished all of these accolades with only one senior, Charles Little. Little finished with 996 career points, but helped become an important part to the program's current and future success.
"If I told him that we'd be in Minneapolis in the Dome playing in the second round of the NCAA tournament and that that's where his career was going to end, he would have never believed me," Gregory said. "And so the final destination of his last game speaks volumes for where he's come as a man because he has grown up."
Although the Flyers lose Little and Thomas, Dayton returns everyone on this year's team. Luckily for the Flyers the two replacements will not only bring quantity, but quality to the team in 2009-2010. Current freshman Josh Benson will return at full strength after redshirting the 2008-09 campaign following surgery to repair a torn labrum and Matt Kavanaugh will join the program, who was a two-time All-Ohio performer.
As a team Dayton will turn 10 of its top 11 scorers from 2008-09 and SI.com already has Dayton ranked 19th for next year. Coupled with Gregory's contract that has been agreed to, the Flyers appear poised to continue its recent successes.
Instead of dwelling on the past and thinking about what could have been, the returning players are already looking ahead to the exciting possibilities for next season. For now, though, the Flyers will enjoy what they've accomplished.
"We had a great season and made great strides as a team and individually, too," said Marcus Johnson. "But we just don't want to dwell on this loss, but just have to learn from it, get in with the coaches, do some film watching and try to work on stuff that we needed to work on this year. And basically just get better."
It's been an ongoing journey with the development of the Flyer program and it will continue to be challenged in the upcoming season. UD will be tested early at the O'Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off against a field that includes 2009 Final Four team Villanova.
With expectations high for next season, the Flyers possess a mentality to take flight once again and continue to build upon this season's success.
"I think we've taken some great steps in this past year in this program," said Gregory. "Not only by the commitment by the players, but, also the culture and the environment that our players are surrounded in every day. And they've obviously helped create that. We're going to have guys thinking about what they need to do to get better now. And that they tasted a little bit and it's pretty good. But I think they want more, too."
- This season Dayton made its 14th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. UD holds a 14-16 overall record in the NCAAs.
- The Flyers have 50 wins over the previous two seasons.
- Dayton finished the year ranked second in the Atlantic 10 in field goal percentage defense (.397) and scoring defense (61.4).
- The Flyers were 11-1 in games decided by five points or less, the best record of close games in the nation. The Flyers were also 20-0 this season when leading with five minutes left in regulation.
- In UD basketball history, Charles Little finished his career 41st on the all-time scoring list with 996 points and tied for third with 127 games played.
- In the March meeting against Xavier, Chris Wright set Dayton's all-time, single-season record for dunks. He finished the year with 54.
- Since the calendar turned to 2009, Marcus Johnson was the most consistent scorer for UD with 21 of 26 games in double figures.
- Kurt Huelsman started in all 35 games this season and is now at 100 in his UD career.
- London Warren has 129 steals in his Flyer career, good for 10th all-time in UD history. His 57 steals in a season put him fourth on Dayton's single-season list. Warren also finished the year among the NCAA's Top 50 in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.3.
- Mickey Perry had double-figure efforts in his four of his last eight games.
- Freshman Chris Johnson moved into seventh all-time for most rebounds by a freshman in a season with 177.
- In his last six games of the season, Fabrizius shot .519 (14-27) from the field and 12-of-25 (.480) from three point range.
- Dayton's 6.5 steals per game was UD's best average in 17 years and became the fifth-best steal-per-game average in school history.
- The Flyers' 20 consecutive home victories stretching back to last season is the longest streak since moving to UD Arena in 1969. UD's homecourt streak is fourth-best in the nation and the best in the Atlantic 10. The Flyers will be shooting to tie the Dayton all-time record for consecutive homecourt wins in next year's home opener.
- Dayton's 18 victories this season at UD Arena set the program record for home wins and eclipsed the old mark set by the 2002-03 team that went 17-1 and the 1977-78 squad that went 17-3. Only two other Flyer squads, the 1949-50 team (16-0) and the 1959-60 squad (14-0), have ever been unbeaten at home.
- The Flyer Faithful set a UD record for regular season total attendance. The sellout crowd that saw UD defeat Duquesne pushed the season total attendance up to 229,768, the best in the regular season and the third-best overall.