DaRon Holmes II and Dayton rally from 17 points down to beat Nevada 63-60 in March Madness

Nevada guard Jarod Lucas (2) reacts as he walks up court during the first half of a first-round college basketball game against Dayton in the NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City, Thursday, March 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Nevada guard Jarod Lucas (2) reacts as he walks up court during the first half of a first-round college basketball game against Dayton in the NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City, Thursday, March 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — DaRon Holmes II and seventh-seeded Dayton staged a huge March Madness rally, closing with a 24-4 run to erase a 17-point deficit and beat 10th-seeded Nevada 63-60 in the West Region on Thursday.

Holmes, the Atlantic 10 player of the year, scored 18 points, including a three-point play with 2:01 remaining that gave Dayton its first lead since the first half.

The Flyers (25-7) trailed 56-39 with 7:36 left but responded with 17 unanswered points. The run included three 3-pointers from Koby Brea, who finished with 15 points.

“In those situations, it’s easy for somebody to try to, like, just get a home run play, try to make it happen by themselves,” Brea said. “In the situation we were in, I think we did a good job of just staying together and doing it together, taking it one possession at a time.”

Enoch Cheeks’ layup with 34 seconds left put Dayton ahead for good, and he made two free throws for the final margin. He scored 12 points as the Flyers picked up their first NCAA Tournament win in nine years.

“That’s been our group all year,” Cheeks said. “When we get into situations like this, we just show resilience. We just have a great group of guys who just always fight and fight. Being in this situation before, we just know that if there’s time on the clock, we have a good chance to come back.”

Dayton, which made its final seven baskets, will face No. 2 seed Arizona in the second round on Saturday.

Jarrod Lucas scored 17 points, and Kenan Blackshear and Nick Davidson scored 15 apiece for the Wolf Pack (26-8), who took control by closing the first half on a 16-0 run. Nevada appeared to have the game well in hand when it held Holmes without a basket for nearly 14 minutes during the second half.

But the Wolf Pack made only two baskets over the final 7 1/2 minutes. They had a chance to force overtime, but Davidson and Blackshear both missed 3-pointers just before the buzzer.

’They played better down the stretch,” Lucas said. “We didn’t do what we were supposed to do.”

Nevada, which finished second in a strong Mountain West conference, is winless in the first round of the NCAA Tournament since reaching the Sweet 16 in 2018.

Dayton coach Anthony Grant won in March Madness for the first time with the Flyers in his seventh season. He picked up his only previous NCAA Tournament win with VCU in 2007.

Lucas and Davidson each knocked down back-to-back shots to highlight a string of seven straight field goals for Nevada, which turned a 25-18 deficit into a 34-25 halftime lead while persistently denying Holmes the ball.

The Flyers missed four shots and committed three turnovers — including an offensive foul by a frustrated Holmes — during the final five minutes before halftime.

“Sometimes shots fall. Sometimes they don’t,” Grant said. “I think in the first half, we allowed that to affect our energy on the other end. They were able to go on a run to close the half.”

The Wolf Pack ultimately made 11 of 12 shots during a nine-minute stretch spanning halftime.

Nevada carried the momentum deep into the second half, taking its largest lead on back-to-back baskets from Lucas with 7:36 left. But Dayton played stingy defense down the stretch, and the Flyers’ shots started to fall.

“We had zero flow to us offensively,” Nevada coach Steve Alford said. “Didn’t like what we did offensively at all. Then defensively we got no stops.”

FIVE-TIMER BID DENIED

Alford missed a chance to join Lon Kruger as only the second coach to guide five different schools to an NCAA Tournament victory. He won in March Madness during stints with Missouri State, Iowa, New Mexico and UCLA.

COMEBACK TRAIL

Rallying for victories from double-digit deficits is nothing new for Dayton. The Flyers came back from a 15-point second-half deficit to beat LSU 70-67 in November. They edged VCU 91-86 in overtime in their regular-season finale after trailing by 17 points in the first half.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

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