By HAL McCOY
The University of Dayton and Wichita State basketball teams — two light heavyweights — slugged it out Friday night in Indianapolis in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament.
Light heavyweights? That’s what the NCAA selection committee thought.
Those, though, were two heavyweights slugging it out as both teams played with lead in their gloves.
And both played with chips on their shoulders — UD because they were six-point underdogs and receiving no love and Wichita State because it believed it was a better seed than the No. 10 slot assigned them by the committee.
AS IT TURNED OUT, Las Vegas had it pegged perfectly — a six-point spread in Wichita State’s favor — and six points it was, a 64-58 Wichita State victory.
It was Wichita State’s 31st victory this season and 16th straight win.
It was a defensive exhibition as both teams played mouth-to-mouth defense and nearly every shot was highly contested.
The Flyers led, 44-43, midway through the second half but from there to the end they couldn’t find the basket with a GPS, a guide dog and a Sherpa.
THEY WENT NEARLY 12 minutes without a basket and Wichita State exploited a couple of defensive lapses back-to-back that put the Flyers in a hole from which they couldn’t extricate themselves.
They permitted a blow-by drive to the hoop and an uncontested three and Wichita State took the biggest lead of the game at that point, 51-45, with 5 ½ minutes left.
From there Wichita State made only one basket, a long ‘3’ by Connor Frankamp, his only basket of the game (he averages 11 points) to give the Shockers a 58-51 lead.
AND THEN THEY PARADED to the foul line, some on some dubious foul calls against the Flyers. They didn’t score a basket but made 10 of 15 from the line.
THE FIRST HALF WAS THE Scoochie Smith Show. The Flyers’ senior point guard made his first three ‘3s’ en route to 15 points and the Flyers led, 29-27.
The Shockers, though, clamped down on Scoochie in the second half and he had one three and two free throws until he scored his team’s final five points in the last 14 seconds when the game was out of reach.
Smith finished with 25. After hitting 6 of 10 in the first half and making his first three ‘3s,’ the Scooch was 9 for 18 from the field and made only one of his last eight three-point tries.
And he received absolutely no help. Senior Charles Cooke was AWOL the entire game, going 1 for 10 from the field and scoring only six points while committing four turnovers. Xeyrius Williams suffered a horrendous shooting night, too, 1 for 8 (0 for 4 from three-point range) and scored 3.
Kendall Pollard was the only other Flyer besides Scoochie to hit double figures and he was 4 for 11 to score 12 points.
THE FLYERS MADE ONLY 32 per cent of their shots (18 for 58) and were brutalized on the backboards, outrebounded 48-29 and the Shockers grabbed 13 off the offensive boards, turning several into points.
Wichita had three players in double figures, but the most was 13 by Landry Shamet. Zach Brown had 12 and Shaquille Morris 10.
The Flyers lost their last three games of the season and finished 24-8 after winning the Atlantic 10 regular season championship but losing to Davidson in the first round of the A-10 tournament.
The senior class, though, leaves with heads held high after making the NCAA tournament four straight years and winning a school record 102 games.