Sunday, February 1, 2004

UD seniors finally get better of rival

By Colleen Kane
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DAYTON, Ohio - Long after his teammates were changed and ready to leave University of Dayton Arena Saturday, Keith Waleskowski wandered the halls outside the Flyers' locker room - still in uniform and still clutching the glass Blackburn/McCafferty MVP Award at his side like a basketball.

"They gave it to me, and no one took it out of my hands," said Waleskowski, a forward from Dayton. "It's a nice little trophy to hold on to. (I'll keep it) until someone takes it out of my hands."

It's understandable. Waleskowski and his senior teammates had waited two years and five games to get the trophy back by finally defeating Xavier.

After their 74-67 victory Saturday, the seniors' record against the Musketeers is just 2-6, their only other win coming their freshman season.

"It felt really good," Dayton guard Ramod Marshall said. "For the seniors, it was our last time at home. They got us the last two times, and we were determined not to let that happen. ... Xavier is our biggest rival. And everybody wants to beat them."

Marshall was named MVP after he tallied 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Waleskowski and 7-foot senior center Sean Finn were right behind him in making sure they didn't relive another loss to Xavier.

Waleskowski had 17 points and nine rebounds. Finn had 15 points and six rebounds.

The trio also kept the team calm when Xavier went on a run to start the second half. And they scored Dayton's last 10 points to break away from a tie at 64 with 2:52 left.

"The key point was when we were down nine in the second half, our players didn't panic. That's what senior leadership does for you," first-year Dayton coach Brian Gregory said. "It's big for those guys. They've talked about it all week. And it's big for me, because this is what it's all about. ... If you weren't fired up today, you better check your pulse, because that place was hopping. And our guys were hopping."

With no game mid-week, the Flyers - and the student fans who camped outside in the cold for tickets to the matchup before being given vouchers - had an entire week to get that fire burning.

"It was an added bonus that we had a week off to prepare for it," Finn said. "I don't think we could have been more prepared if we tried. ... There was nothing that surprised us."

Dayton freshman James Cripe, of Loveland, was probably the most surprising thing the Flyers encountered. He scored a career-high nine points in his first game vs. the Musketeers, more than his last eight games combined.

Dayton remains atop the Atlantic 10 at 7-0, 17-3 overall.



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