Diener's 28 points defeat Dayton, deliver DePaul in double overtime

Blue Demons win, 76-69, advance to play UConn

Ncaa Regional


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 (22-9) had the will, but not always the way against the Flyers (24-9) 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.

Drake Diener led DePaul by scoring 10 of his career-high 28 points in overtime.

Ramod Marshall led Dayton with 17 points, but the Flyers were hurt by their poor performance at the free-throw line, where they went 12-for-23. Dayton lost its fourth straight tournament game. It hasn't won since beating Illinois in 1990.

The victory gives DePaul a second-round matchup against 28-6 Connecticut, a 70-53 victor over Vermont, in the Phoenix Regional.

It was 55-55 after regulation play and 59-59 headed into a second five-minute overtime in a game in which neither team could seem to make its free throws.

It was a game during which Dayton's superior size - notably 7-foot Sean Finn - nearly was equalized by the sharpshooting of Diener. Diener single-handedly brought DePaul back with an 11-point long- range spurt in just more than four minutes of the second half.

One of DePaul's trademarks this season was its balanced, fail-safe offense. But for the first 13 minutes of this game, it was a total system failure. Blue Demons started 4-for-17 from the field and had nine points on the board.

Meanwhile, Dayton, which had only won five of its previous 10 games, displayed superb ball movement to lead by as many as six points.

Freshman point guard Sammy Mejia, whose passes were paying no dividends, at last jump-started DePaul with two short jumpers and the Blue Demons took a 20-19 lead on guard's Chris Exilus" three- pointer before Dayton came away with its 25-22 halftime margin.

Exilus came off the bench earlier than usual because junior LeVar Seals was suspended. Seals was sidelined for the game as punishment for throwing a punch in Saturday's league championship game against Cincinnati.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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