The university’s basketball team reachED the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four that March on the wingspan of Don May, who had led Dayton’s Belmont High School to the Ohio state championship in 1964.
After reaching the Tournament’s Sweet 16 in both of May’s first two seasons, the Flyers took off in 1966-67.
Dayton finished 21-5 in the regular season with May averaging 22.2 points and 16.7 rebounds — fifth in the nation — to earn second-team All-America honors.
The Flyers opened the tournament with a 69-67 victory against Western Kentucky in an overtime thriller, rallying from a 10-point halftime deficit. May scored 26 points and grabbed 20 rebounds, but Bobby Joe Hooper scored the game-winner on a 20-foot jump shot with four seconds remaining in overtime.
Hooper scored 14 points, including a crucial free throw late in the game, to lead the Flyers to a 53-52 victory against Tennessee in the Mideast Regional semifinals.
In the regional final against Virginia Tech, the Flyers rallied from a 62-52 deficit late in the second half to force overtime. They won, 71-66, led by May’s 28 points and 16 rebounds.
“The whole significance of that year came after we beat Virginia Tech in the regional,” Hall of Fame coach Don Donoher recalled to the Dayton Daily News this year. “There was one heck of a party afterward and Tom Frericks (athletics director) went around the room and in so many words said, ‘Tonight, we just built an arena!’”
Two years later, UD Arena opened and the Flyers have played there since.
In 1967, the Flyers played their final two games of the season at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky. There, on March 24, 1967, the Flyers beat Dean Smith’s first North Carolina Final Four team, 76-62, in the moment judged the greatest in school history.
May hit a record 13 consecutive field goals, finishing with 34 points and 15 rebounds. Gene Klaus added 15 points and Glinder Torain had 14 as the Flyers advanced to the national championship game against UCLA and Lew Alcindor.
“It’s getting to the fairy-tale stage now,” Donoher said after the game.
“We’re not conceding anything to anybody in the championship game,” May said. “Our coach will come up with something. He always does.”
But there was no stopping UCLA — “The University of California at Los Angeles, sometimes known as Lew Alcindor,” wrote the Dayton Daily News.
Alcindor, who averaged 29 points and 15 rebounds as a sophomore in 1967, led the Bruins to a 79-64 victory to cap a 30-0 season and the first of seven consecutive national titles for John Wooden.
May did his best to hold his own, finishing with 21 points and 17 rebounds.
“May is just a terrific player,” UCLA forward Kenny Heitz told Sports Illustrated. “So strong — and, more than that, he knows how to use his strength. I know that he was trying to get inside on me, but I could tell all along that he wouldn’t take me in as far as he would normally like to because Lew would be there.”
Alcindor won two more NCAA championships before a Hall-of-Fame 20-year career in the NBA that included six NBA championships and six MVP awards.
May led the Dayton to the 1968 NIT championship against Jo Jo White and Kansas. He played eight years in the NBA, his best season coming in 1970-71, averaging 20.2 points and 7.3 rebounds with the expansion Buffalo Braves (now Los Angeles Clippers).
“Unquestionably the greatest Flyer ever,” Jim Paxson Jr., another Flyers standout and a two-time NBA All-Star, told the Dayton Daily News.
Above: Don May, right, and Dayton celebrate their 76-62 victory against North Carolina in the 1967 Final Four. (Courtesy University of Dayton Archives)
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