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It’s on! Gophers fly past Dayton to enter Elite Eight

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Carr’s near triple-double helps end magical season for Dayton

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Minnesota David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

I guess when you’re hot, you’re hot. And if there was any hotter team in the country than the Dayton Flyers before today then the Minnesota Golden Gophers may have just supplanted them, sealing a trip to the team’s first Elite Eight in more than 20 years with a 77-71 win over the East region’s top seed on Friday night.

Minnesota ended a ridiculous 25-game winning streak for the Flyers, whose last loss came way back on December 21st to Colorado and who was carrying one of the nation’s best players in Obi Toppin.

However, it had been quite some time since Dayton had matched up against someone of Daniel Oturu’s caliber, which was evident from the outset as the Flyers seemingly had no answer for the sophomore forward. Oturu bullied and abused the Dayton interior, racking up 19 points and pulling down 9 rebounds in the first half alone as the Gophers cruised to an 8-point halftime lead, leaving the Flyers shell-shocked.

However, an early (and extremely questionable!) third foul on Oturu sent him to the bench for a crucial stretch in the second half, allowing the Flyers to claw back and erase the deficit, taking a slim 46-44 lead with 12 minutes to play in the game and handing the momentum right back to one of the nation’s best teams.

But like the Undertaker rising from from his coffin, Oturu’s return rerouted the second half flow, putting Dayton back on its heels and handing the lead back to Minnesota. A back-and-forth cadence of mini was blown to bits by Marcus Carr, who scored eight straight points to give the Gophers their final lead at 67-65 with little more than three minutes to go, and building that to a 73-69 lead with one minute remaining before finishing off the game at the free throw line.

When the dust settled, Oturu finished with 29 points and 14 rebounds, and Carr nearly nabbed his second triple-double of the season, finishing with 12 points, 9 assists and 11 rebounds. Payton Willis and Alihan Demir both finished in double digits as well with 10 points each as Minnesota shot a respectable 39% from the field and a gorgeous 14-18 from the line.

Obi Toppin was still a monster, scoring 23 points and grabbing seven rebounds, and his supporting cast still had a good game, but it was Dayton’s inability to contain Oturu that ultimately doomed them, and it was clear an energized Big Ten team was going to be a handful for them from the tip.

The crazy season continues. As if there hasn’t been enough drama yet for you the past few weeks, the Gophers now draw the #3-seed Michigan State Spartans in the Elite Eight, playing the Spartans for the fourth time this season, and who they are 0-3 against this year. Buckle up.