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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No. 2 Arizona MBB set to face No. 7 Dayton in second round of NCAA Tournament

Noor Haghighi
Oumar Ballo high fives his teammates during a game against Stanford in McKale Center on Feb. 4. Ballo contributed 18 points to the total of 82.

The No. 2 seed Arizona men’s basketball team (26-8, 15-5 Pac-12) is set to face the No. 7 seed University of Dayton during the second round of the West Region matchups in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, March 23, in the Delta Center in Salt Lake City. Arizona made it past the first round of the tournament after dominating No. 15 California State University, Long Beach, on Thursday, March 21. The Wildcats defeated the Sharks by 20 points in the 85-65 victory.

History vs. Dayton

Arizona and Dayton have met merely three times heading into Saturday’s matchup of the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats hold the current series record over the Flyers, leading 2-1. In the teams’ first meeting in 1951, Dayton claimed the 74-68 victory over Arizona, but the Wildcats won the next two games. This will be the fourth meeting and it’s been 24 years since the last encounter between the Wildcats and the Flyers.

Dayton players to watch

The Flyers are led by head coach Anthony Grant, who is approaching his seventh season leading Dayton, and has accumulated a 124-64 record with the Flyers entering the 2023-2024 season. The Flyers this season sit with their 25-7 series record and 14-4 conference record going into their 18th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Dayton is coming off a toe-to-toe 63-60 victory over the University of Nevada, Reno on March 21 to claim a spot in the second round and matchup against Arizona.

DaRon Holmes II took on an enormous role during the nail-biting 63-60 win over Nevada; Holmes led the Flyers with 18 points, nine rebounds, three steals and one block against the Wolf Pack. Holmes was recently named a finalist for the Lute Olson Award, which is ultimately given to the National College Player of the Year. The 6-foot-10 forward has notably scored over 20 points in four of his last five games and achieved a game-high 34 points in February. Additionally, Holmes leads Dayton in points, rebounds and blocks, averaging 20.3 points, 2.6 assists, 8.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.

Nate Santos is a versatile forward who is the Flyers’ second leading scorer in points and rebounding, averaging 11.9 points, 1.6 assists and 6.4 rebounds per game. Santos shoots 42.5% from beyond the arc, and the University of Pittsburgh transfer has gone 8-16 from the 3-point line in his last three games. Santos scored only 8 points against Nevada, while also grabbing seven rebounds in the same game.

Enoch Cheeks is an efficient guard, averaging 11 points in his last 10 games. Cheeks provided a major contribution in helping lead the Flyers to the 63-60 victory over Nevada, finishing the game with 8 points, three assists, three rebounds and two steals. The junior guard averages a shooting percentage of 44.4% from the field and impacts the game in various categories for Dayton. Cheeks leads Dayton in steals, averaging 8 points, two assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.

Wildcats to watch

Sophomore guard Kylan Boswell showed out over Long Beach State, scoring a career-high 20 points, leading the Wildcats in the victory over the Sharks as he found multiple ways to score for Arizona. In the same game, Boswell added on eight assists, three rebounds and two steals, providing thorough aid in numerous areas. The guard has struggled in his previous three games played, collecting only 11 points on 4-23 shooting from the field during this span but found a flow on Thursday. Boswell leads the Wildcats in assists and steals per game, averaging 10.1 points, 3.7 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game.

Pac-12 Player of the Year Caleb Love tapped back into his rhythm in the 85-65 victory against Long Beach State after a three-game stretch of low-scoring games. The guard achieved his second double-double of the season, completing the afternoon with 18 points, five assists, 11 rebounds and two steals. Love was announced a finalist for the Lute Olson National College Player of the Year award on March 20 and the offensive talent continues to lead Arizona in scoring, averaging 18.1 points, 3.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game.

Oumar Ballo, member of the Pac-12 All-Defensive team and the All Pac-12 First Team, remains a consistent player for the Wildcats with how he impacts the paint; the center continues to lead the team in rebounds while averaging a double-double consisting of 13 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. Against Long Beach State, Ballo was one of five Wildcat players to score in double-figures, finishing with 11 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks, picking up his 19th double-double of the season and 33rd of his career. 

Ballo was asked in a postgame press conference if he was having fun playing in the second half against Long Beach State when Arizona went on a 17-2 run.

“Yeah, we were, because like, you know, in the second half we were playing really good defense and I feel like our defense always dictates our offense. We get stops then we run fast breaks, and if you get stops like that then score you got to celebrate. That’s how like we’re having fun every game,” Ballo said.

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