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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No. 2 Arizona MBB advances to Sweet 16 after knocking off No. 7 Dayton

Mason Kumet
Caleb Love throws down a dunk off a fastbreak during a 20-2 run against Wisconsin on Dec. 9 in McKale Center. Both Caleb and Ballo lit up McKale Center with back to back dunks in this scoring run.

In Saturday’s second round of the NCAA Tournament, the No. 2 Arizona men’s basketball team secured a 78-68 victory over No. 7 University of Dayton in the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Wildcats (27-8) fended off a second-half surge by the Flyers to advance to the Sweet 16 for the second time under Tommy Lloyd. Arizona had four players finish with double figures in scoring, with Caleb Love leading the way with 19 points.

Arizona initially seemed poised for a dominant performance against the Dayton Flyers, effortlessly scoring and dictating the pace throughout the first half. Led by Love, who showcased his scoring prowess with 13 points in the first 12 minutes, Arizona stretched its lead to 17 points.

The Flyers had no answer for Arizona, as the Wildcats found success all over the court. The Wildcats shot 16-25 (64%) from the field, compared to the Flyers’ 11-31 (35%). Arizona also dominated the glass, out-rebounding Dayton 18-12. In the paint they outscored the Flyers 20-10.

However, the Wildcats’ momentum would be hampered by their own mistakes. They turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, compared to Dayton’s six turnovers. Despite the Flyers’ initial struggles to contain Arizona’s speedy offense and defensive pressure, the team found a spark late in the half, tightening its defense and forcing turnovers.

Unfortunately, the Wildcats’ inability to control the ball became an issue late in the first half. They turned the ball over four times in the final 3 minutes, igniting life into the Flyers, which closed the first half on a 10-0 run. After leading by as many as 17 points, Arizona entered the half leading by 7 at 40-33.

Entering the second half, the Wildcats were clearly flustered by Dayton’s increased aggression. Arizona struggled to get its shots to fall early in the half. The Wildcats converted on only one of their first seven shots, allowing the Flyers to cut the Wildcat lead down to 4.

Both teams responded to each other’s baskets, as the Arizona lead hovered between 4 to 6 points throughout the opening 10 minutes of the second half. Midway through the second half, the Wildcats were leading 56-51, as both teams were shooting under 30% in the half.

However, the Wildcats regained control, fueled by a 10-0 scoring run. They pulled away from the Flyers en route to the 78-68 victory. Arizona finished the afternoon going 28-53 (53%) from the field, while Dayton was 24-59 (41%). The Wildcats’ ability to control the paint (38-32), the glass (35-31) and bench points (23-2) was on full display as Arizona advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second time under Lloyd.

Love led the Wildcats in scoring with 19 points and five assists. Pelle Larsson and Keshad Johnson both added 13 points and seven rebounds, with Larsson also dishing a team-high six assists. Jaden Bradley also found his groove, scoring 12 points while going a team-high 5-6 from the charity stripe.

Meanwhile, Oumar Ballo and Kylan Boswell had quiet games. Ballo finished with 8 points and only three rebounds, while Boswell, coming off a career-high 20 points, scored 2 points thanks to two late free throws.

Looking ahead: 

The Wildcats’ second round victory secured their spot in the Sweet 16 of the West Region, which is set for Thursday, March 28. Arizona will face either No. 3 Baylor University or No. 6 Clemson University.

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