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Dayton outlasts Rhode Island, forcing 21 turnovers

Scoochie Smith of the Dayton Flyers shoots over

Scoochie Smith of the Dayton Flyers shoots over Jarvis Garrett of the Rhode Island Rams during an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament in New York, Saturday, March 14, 2015. Credit: Getty Images / Alex Goodlett

Dayton is short on size with no one on the active roster standing taller than 6-6 and short on players with a rotation that swims in the shallow end at just seven deep. But this is a find-a-way team, a team that has found a way to win 25 games and earn a fight for the Atlantic 10 title.

The way Saturday in the semifinals at Barclays Center was primarily through its defense. The second-seeded Flyers outlasted third-seeded Rhode Island, 56-52, holding the Rams to just 39.5 percent shooting and forcing 21 turnovers that led to 22 points.

"Every basket was hard-earned, and we're very fortunate to win," Dayton coach Archie Miller said. "But at this time of the year, it doesn't really matter how you get it. You've just got to get it."

So the 25-7 Flyers get to play Sunday at 1 p.m. against fifth-seeded VCU, a 25-9 team that fell at home to Dayton, 59-55, on Feb. 28.

The Flyers advanced past URI with the help of 11 steals, five by guard Jordan Sibert, their leading scorer with 12 points.

"We basically know that our defense is what fuels our offense," Sibert said.

The Flyers also outscored the Rams 36-16 in the paint.

Still, this game sat at 47-47 with three minutes left. Then Sibert drove the baseline for two. E.C. Matthews, who scored 16, missed a three for Rhode Island. Kyle Davis hit two free throws, and after a Scoochie Smith steal and a Sibert layup, the Flyers led 53-47.

Jarvis Garrett made two foul shots for the Rams, and Smith countered with one. Jared Terrell nailed a three with 22.1 seconds left to cut it to 54-52, but Davis tacked on two more from the line at 18.2. Then came turnover No. 21, and that was it.

"The difference in the game was obviously I think their maturity -- their maturity and our immaturity," said URI coach Danny Hurley, who started two freshmen and two sophomores.

Next up, NIT?

"If that's where we end up landing," Hurley said of his 22-9 team, "then we'll be thrilled with that."

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