Diener delivers for DePaul, defeats Dayton in double overtime

His free throws clinch UConn matchup, 76-69

Ncaa Tournament

Ncaa Regional Phoenix

March 19, 2004|By Lew Freedman | Lew Freedman,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

BUFFALO, N.Y. - DePaul or Dayton? It was suggested that the teams were even going into their NCAA playoff game last night, and after struggling through regulation and overtime, they still were dead even.

The Blue Demons' first NCAA appearance in four years kept 18,698 at HSBC Arena enthralled as every time the buzzer sounded the game was tied.

DePaul of Conference USA had the will, but not always the way against the Flyers of the Atlantic 10, who spurted to an early lead, fell behind by seven points in the second half, then regrouped and rallied before finally falling, 76-69, in double overtime.

Drake Diener led DePaul by scoring 10 of his career-high 28 points in double overtime. The junior guard was particularly strong from the foul line, hitting all eight in the second overtime and all 10 in the game.

"We fought them tooth and nail, and it came down to heart," DePaul coach Dave Leitao said.

Actually, it came down to who could sink a foul shot.

DePaul (22-9) finished 23-for-40 from the line, including Andre Brown, who missed all 10. Dayton (24-9) hit only 12 of 23 attempts and, in the process, lost its fourth straight tournament game. The Flyers haven't won since beating Illinois in 1990.

DePaul ended a four-game tournament losing streak, and won for the first time since beating Memphis State, 66-63, in 1989.

"We were shooting poorly from the line, but what kept us in was they were missing them, too," Diener said.

In a second-round game tomorrow, DePaul plays Connecticut, a matchup between the teacher, Jim Calhoun and the student, Leitao.

Leitao, in his second season at DePaul, was a longtime assistant under Calhoun at UConn and played for him at Northeastern.

"I don't want to play them. It's going to be an emotional game for me and Jim," Leitao said. "But I have to approach this as another game."

Both teams struggled offensively to a 55-55 tie after regulation, then in the first overtime, each team scored just four points. With 20.9 seconds left, the Flyers played for the last shot, which hit nothing but air. Quemont Greer got the ball with two seconds left.

DePaul was planning a length-of-the-court pass. But then Greer threw the ball into the ceiling scoreboard. It was ruled a turnover, and there were still four-tenths of a second to go.

Dayton's Frank Iguodala caught a lob pass inside and got off an errant shot, possibly being fouled, but the game went to the second overtime.

In a game that featured 11 lead changes, the Blue Demons went ahead for good at 64-63 when Diener hit two free throws with 2:13 left in the second overtime.

Diener was the last player Dayton coach Brian Gregory wanted on the line. "We fouled them twice in a row, fouling Drake, and that's like giving them a layup," Gregory said.

DePaul compensated without guard and sixth man LeVar Seals. He was serving a one-game suspension for punching Cincinnati's Tony Bobbitt in the groin during last weekend's Conference USA final.

The Blue Demons have won seven of eight - three of those victories coming in overtime.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Hartford Courant, another Tribune Publishing newspaper, and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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