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The One That Got Away
The One That Got Away
Published by Swampy Meadows
The One That Got Away

BEVERLY HILLS (MI) -- On the day of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship it’s only fitting that we take a look back at one of the greatest games in UD history:

The 1974 triple-overtime loss to defending champion UCLA

What got this conversation started was a thread on the UD Pride MB entitled If there was a 3-point line when Smitty played, referring of course to the late, great Donald Smith. Those of us who saw Donald play rhapsodized about Smitty’s deadly left-handed, step-back jumper, his unstoppability and how many points he would have scored had there been three-pointers in his day.

That led to a wish to be able to see video of Smitty in action. That motivated “FTS” to do a deep-dive into the dark recesses of The Googles until I came up with the linky goodness motherlode of all time.

But first, let’s set the table.

Dayton entered the 32 team NCAA field with a record of 19-7, having beaten the likes of Georgia, California, St. John’s, DePaul, Cincinnati and, oh yeah, some team from South Bend:


That 97-82 win over the #2 ranked Irish at UD Arena remains the loudest game I have ever attended. I was in the next-to-the-last row and could feel the building shaking! I was the Sales Manager at WVUD at the time and had done a small trade deal with Gary McCanns in the UD Ticket office – a few ads on ‘VUD promoting the game for 4 seats to the Notre Dame tilt. I invited the Media Director at Kircher Helton & Collett (the ad agency for Rike's Department Stores) to join me…and his son and a buddy showed up. Someone printed up T-shirts after the big win and they sold them outside of the Bookstore. The plain white T simply said:

Dayton 97
Notre Dame 82

I bought one and wore it proudly until it disintegrated years later.

ND had just ended UCLA’s 88 game win streak, so beating them punched the ticket to the Big Dance for the Sons of Don Donoher. The Flyers’ first game was in beautiful downtown Pocatello, ID vs. Cal State-Los Angeles, who the Flyers dispatched 88-80. That sent them to Phoenix for a Sweet Sixteen matchup with The Walton Gang.

Which is what my Google-spelunking uncovered. A 49-minute, full game video from a website called Wooden’s Wisdom, devoted to all things Wooden:


Here is the boxscore from the game:


It’s been 45 years so seeing this and reading the game summary jolts many of the memories of that game:

-- This was not Donald Smith’s best game by a long shot. Altho he scored 26 points on 12-23 shooting, Smitty missed many shots that he consistently drained during the regular season.

-- The guy who played out of his gourd was Mike Sylvester. “Sly” pumped in 36 points and grabbed 13 boards and had the UCLA bench shaking their collective heads in disbelief at some of his off-balance, behind-the-head jumpers.

-- Joe Fisher was perfect on the day: 6-6 from the field and 3-3 from the line. Oh yeah and he got to cover Walton.

-- Freshman PG Johnny Davis played every minute, scored 17 and was so effective at ballhandling that the Bruins never even attempted to employ their vaunted press defense. He also had one fine Afro going for him, too!

-- What many people don’t recall, is that UD had a game after the loss to UCLA. Back then, the NCAA in its infinite wisdom made teams hold a “Consolation Game” if they lost in the Sweet Sixteen. With literally nothing to play for, Dayton dropped a 66-61 decision to New Mexico.

-- Donoher and the Flyers returned to UD Arena to a rousing Welcome Home celebration that Mrs. Swampy and I attended. I suck at estimating crowds, but I bet there were 4-5,000 Flyer Faithful in attendance.

UCLA went on to eventually lose to David Thompson and NC State, but oh what woulda, coulda, shoulda been!

That’s it “From the Swamp.”
You can email me at: swampy@udpride.com
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