Marcus Johnson added 11 points and eight rebounds as UD won its third in a row.
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – For the second straight game, the University of Dayton Flyers unveiled some more Black Magic.
Donning the black uniforms for the second consecutive game, the Flyers put forth a gritty performance and advanced to the NIT Semifinals for the first time since 1968 with a 77-71 victory over the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Chris Johnson led the Dayton attack with 18 points and six rebounds, while Marcus Johnson added 11 points and eight rebounds and Chris Wright tallied 10 points and seven rebounds as UD won its third consecutive game.
Dayton will head to New York City to play the Ole Miss Rebels on Tuesday, March 30 at 7 p.m. ET from Madison Square Garden.
UD not only defeated a Big Ten team for the first time since the 2001-02 season, but also improved to 9-4 against BCS schools in the previous four seasons.
After controlling the tempo of the game for a majority of the contest, Illinois did cut the Flyer lead to 72-66 with 41 seconds left. However, Dayton’s Marcus Johnson, Chris Johnson and Paul Williams sank 5-of-6 free throws with down the stretch to secure the victory.
Dayton came out with an efficient effort on the offensive end and a smothering defense throughout the game. UD shot 48 percent from the field for the second consecutive game and went 8-fo-18 from three-point range.
Although UD was out-rebounded by the Illini, the Flyers limited Illinois to 6-of-23 shooting from beyond the arc and 37 percent from the field.
Dayton led 38-25 at halftime after dominating on the glass and shooting well from the outside. The Flyers shot 50 percent from the field and three-point range in the first half and held a 23-13 edge on the glass.
It was the 10th time this season the Flyers held an opponent to 25 points or less in the first half.
Midway through the first half the Flyers separated themselves with an early run. UD led 29-11 after two threes from Luke Fabrizius. During the game’s opening 10 minutes, Dayton shot 71 percent from beyond the arc.
Fabrizius finished with nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Huelsman added eight points and five rebounds while Rob Lowery picked up eight points and five assists.
Ticket information for the Flyers’ NIT semifinal game will be available later on DaytonFlyers.com.
Dayton Head Coach Brian Gregory
It was a great challenge and opportunity for us to play Illinois tonight. To be honest after watching film and watching the way they play, this is a team that should be playing in the NCAA Tournament. I’ve been in the Big Ten for a long time and you go 10-8 in that league, but I say that because I have a tremendous amount of respect for Bruce (Weber) and the type of guys he has in his program. To me, that makes this victory more satisfying because we beat a really good team on their home court.”
“Our seniors did a good job of sticking with it and hanging tough and we needed that. We played with great energy and intensity today and I thought that was the difference in the game. I’m really pleased with the opportunity to head to New York. The University of Dayton has had tremendous success playing in the NIT and I know our guys set the goal two weeks ago to get back to New York. They said it was a test of their character and pride and I think they answered that tonight.”
“Just off the game and being aggressive. Just playing our style of game; defend, rebound and run. If we did that we would be successful.”
“We knew that Illinois was a good team and that they were going to make a run. We knew down the stretch we had to keep our poise. We had to move the ball around from their press, get some easy shots and make free throws when we got the opportunity.”
“Our style of play is defend, rebound and run. Once we get that rebound, we want to get out and run. It helps create our offense.”
“It’s kind of hard to play from being down. They made a great run coming back. They are a tough team.”
“Like coach said, it’s a great opportunity for us. Our school has a tremendous history there. We want to add to that. Our guys are excited about the opportunity.”