Friday, November 24, 2017
Sports

Dayton flies high entering NCAA matchup with Gators

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MEMPHIS — Call it homecourt advantage for the Dayton Flyers.

The NCAA South Region final is at FedExForum, but judging by the large number of Dayton fans who have made the trip, tonight's game against the No. 1 overall seed Gators will clearly be like a hostile road environment for Florida.

"We have a spectacular fan base," Dayton coach Archie Miller said. "I mean, spectacular. When we play, regardless of where we're at, what you guys probably experienced maybe for the first time is what our players experience every time we take the floor. … Wherever we go, some crazy group of people is going to show up. The great thing about what's going on right now is they're energized. That makes them probably even a little bit more crazy."

UF senior C Patric Young said based on 11th-seeded Dayton's tournament resume — victories over Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford — perhaps the Gators should be considered the underdogs. He understands why the crowd most likely will be pro-Dayton, even those with no affiliation.

"As fans, we want to see the underdog team, whatever sport, be able to knock down (the favorite), the David-and-Goliath-type story," Young said. "But that has nothing to do with what happens in between the lines. We've been in hostile environments before.

"Even if all the fans there are cheering for Dayton, we're still going to stay within ourselves and stay focused on the moment one possession at a time. We won't allow it to affect us. We've been able to handle that all year long. We're playing a dangerous team. They earned their spot to be here. They were the best team to make this spot."

FAMILIAR FACE: Florida coach Billy Donovan again faces one of his former assistant coaches. Tom Ostrom, in his third season as an assistant with the Flyers, got his start under Donovan as a video coordinator.

"It's been awhile since he's worked for me and at Florida, but he's done a great job for me," Donovan said, adding there's no disadvantage with Ostrom on another team. "But I think the teams are going to end up preparing, and the teams are going to have to go out and execute and play."

CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS: Memphis has been filled with well-known folks at the FedExForum. Florida Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow attended Thursday night's game against UCLA to cheer on his alma mater. Stanford alums Condoleeza Rice and Seattle Seahawks star Richard Sherman attended the Dayton-Stanford game.

And then there was a pseudo-celebrity sighting, the oddest of them all.

Mississippi G Marshall Henderson — who has been a thorn in Florida's side the past two seasons — was there. And get this: He was wearing an Ole Miss hat and a Gators shirt. According to his Twitter account, he even called the Gators "his boys" and said he was going to support them. Nobody ever said he's not a character.

DID YOU KNOW: ESPN Stats & Info said that Thursday night against UCLA, Florida G Kasey Hill became the fourth freshman with at least 10 assists in a Sweet 16 game, joining Cal's Jason Kidd (1993), Maryland's Keith Gatlin (1984) and Michigan State's Magic Johnson (1978).

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