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Dayton beats Cincinnati 81-66 in 2nd round of NIT

CINCINNATI (AP) — Rob Lowery led an early 3-point barrage that built a 17-point lead, and Dayton held on for a rough-and-tumble 81-66 victory over Cincinnati in the second round of the NIT on Monday night.

The Flyers (22-12) made eight of their first 12 shots from behind the arc to get the big lead, and survived a second-half Cincinnati comeback before pulling away to their most lopsided win over the Bearcats in 25 years.

It was only their third win over Cincinnati in their last 17 games in the southwest Ohio rivalry.

"I had fun out there," said Chris Wright, who scored 11 points. "When you're playing against guys you know, you know they're going to play a lot harder. It's for bragging rights. It felt like high school all over again."

Dayton will play at Illinois in the quarterfinals Wednesday, extending a season that held a lot of disappointment. The Flyers were picked to win the Atlantic 10, but blew a lot of leads and suffered a lot of close losses, finishing seventh.

"They've been knocked down so many times and they keep getting back up," coach Brian Gregory said. "I can't tell you how proud I am of these guys. We told them this would be a test of character and pride and how much the program meant to them. They've answered that and today they might have put an exclamation on it."

Cincinnati (19-16) was prone to long shooting slumps all season, and managed only two field goals during a 10-minute span in the second half. After cutting the 17-point deficit to 44-43, the Bearcats could never make that final push.

"Same story again," coach Mick Cronin said. "Once we got close, we couldn't make a shot. We kept missing open shot after open shot."

The Bearcats set the NCAA tournament as their goal — a place they haven't been since 2005 — but faded down the stretch and finished 11th in the Big East.

Dayton brought its pep band, cheerleaders and a lot of fans, turning it into a high-energy game in front of 6,479 fans. The Flyers got the best of it early, pulling ahead 34-17 by hitting open 3s. Senior guard Deonta Vaughn scored Cincinnati's last 11 points in the half, cutting it to 41-36.

Vaughn finished with a season-high 28 points and passed Danny Fortson for third on the school's career scoring list. He got a standing ovation when he left the floor in the final minute.

"My four years have been great," said Vaughn, who finished with 1,885 points. "I learned a lot about basketball. I matured a lot since I came here and did a lot of great things to try to help this program get back to where it needs to be."

The Bearcats were caught flat-footed at the start, outplayed by a Dayton team that had a lot more enthusiasm.

"We definitely underestimated them," said freshman Lance Stephenson, who said he would return for another season. "We knew they played hard, but we didn't know they played with that much intensity."