Previewing Dayton

For all the disappointments of North Carolina's 2009-10 season, the Tar Heels have a chance to go out on a winning note Thursday night. The NIT championship game against Dayton tips off at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

North Carolina (20-16) vs. Dayton (24-12)
New York, N.Y. -- Madison Square Garden,
7:00 p.m. -- ESPN (Ron Franklin, Fran Fraschilla, Bill Raftery)

Quotables

"They are still North Carolina. You are talking about a Hall of Fame coach; he didn't become a dud the last two months. There is a Carolina way. They are tremendous in the open court. They really push the ball. They flow quickly in their secondary offense very seamlessly and they are extremely big. They (might) be the best offensive rebounding team we've faced. They do a great job of playing fast and being able to execute in a very fast fashion… It was a team that maybe didn't mesh as well during the year but like us they are playing their best basketball of the season right now." – Dayton head coach Brian Gregory

"Their pace of play is impressive. Substitutions are impressive. I substitute a lot but they substitute a heck of lot more than we do. Their athleticism, the pressure they put on one end is impressive. Chris Wright, Chris Johnson, Marcus Johnson...they have some youngsters that are extremely athletic, extremely quick. It is impossible to simulate it. We are not going to simulate that kind of athleticism." – UNC head coach Roy Williams

PREGAME NOTES

Season to Date: Dayton enters Thursday's contest with a 24-12 (8-8 Atlantic 10) record. The Flyers' signature regular season win came at the O'Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tipoff in knocking off Georgia Tech, 63-59. Gregory's squad has struggled away from home this season, posting an 8-10 mark. For the most part, Dayton has avoided any bad losses this season, as 11 of its 12 losses are to Top-100 RPI teams.

Last Time Out: The Flyers defeated Mississippi, 68-63, on Tuesday night. Chris Johnson led Dayton with 22 points and 10 rebounds, including a strong performance in the final 36 seconds. The sophomore forward registered a rebound, a steal and three free throws to secure the program's eighth trip to the NIT championship game.

Athletic Freak: Junior forward Chris Wright earned First Team All- Atlantic 10 honors after leading Dayton in scoring (13.7 ppg), rebounding (7.2 rpg), blocks (52), minutes per game (28.6) and dunks (a school-record 67), while also ranking third in field goal percentage (.503, 182-362). With a documented 43-and-a half inch vertical leap, the 6-foot-8 Wright increased his production during conference play, averaging 14.6 points, 7.7 boards and 1.9 blocks per outing.

Tough Down the Stretch: The old saying goes that it doesn't matter who starts the game, but rather who finishes the game. Dayton has taken that phrase to heart this season, playing its best basketball this season in the final five minutes of regulation. The Flyers have out-scored its opponents 409-320. They are shooting 115-of-252 (.456) from the floor, 39-of-108 (.361) from beyond the arc, and 140-of-204 at the free throw line (.686). Defensively, UD is limiting its opponents to 82-of-231 shooting (.355), 23-of-97 from 3 (.237) and have forced 65 turnovers in that span.

Wild in Transition: Dayton is known for its desire to get up and down the court quickly, but sometimes the Flyers get going a little too fast. Gregory's squad ranks ninth in the A-10 in turnover margin (minus-0.53), thanks to 14.6 turnovers per game (12th A-10).

Random Fact of the Day: In the last three seasons, the Flyers are 9-4 against power conference opponents. Dayton's nine victories have come against Illinois, Louisville, West Virginia, Georgia Tech, Marquette, Auburn, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Ole Miss. Four of those wins occurred this season.

Last Meeting: North Carolina defeated Dayton, 81-51, in Chapel Hill on Dec. 31, 2006. Tyler Hansbrough led the Tar Heels with 17 points, while Brandan Wright (16 and six rebounds) and Wayne Ellington (15) both provided offensive firepower. UNC shot better than 50 percent from the floor in both halves and held Dayton to 21.9 percent in the first half and 30.5 percent overall.

Series History: Carolina and Dayton have split two previous meetings.

Projected Starters:
1 London Warren (6-0, 187, Sr.) – 5.7 ppg, 4.1 apg
32 Marcus Johnson (6-3, 200, Sr.) – 9.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg
4 Chris Johnson (6-6, 191, So.) – 11.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg
33 Chris Wright (6-8, 226, Jr.) – 13.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg
41 Kurt Huelsman (6-10, 245, Sr.) – 7.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg

Top Reserves:
3 Rob Lowery (6-3, 172, Sr.) – 7.5 ppg
0 Mickey Perry (6-2, 192, Sr.) – 5.6 ppg
22 Paul Williams (6-4, 206, So.) – 5.3 ppg
34 Devin Searcy (6-10, 226, Jr.) – 3.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg

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