Dayton: Not the Hawkeyes' favorite city

Iowa's 2-0 there, but the second win came with a severe cost

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Iowa's exposure to Dayton, Ohio, is minimal, but what happened there on Dec. 23, 1979, may have cost the Hawkeyes a national-championship.

Iowa played in the four-team Dayton Classic. The Hawkeyes beat Mississippi State the night before to face the home-school Dayton Flyers in the final.

The result was satisfactory for the visitors, a 61-54 win. But with 7:08 left, Iowa senior point guard Ronnie Lester's knee buckled on a drive to the basket. Surgery seemed like it might be necessary, but it was decided against.

Lester missed all but four of the remaining regular-season games. He played in the home-finale after being out for nine games, then played in Iowa's four NCAA tournament wins. He had 17 points in each of the first two games.

But in the first half of the Hawkeyes' national-semifinal against Louisville, Lester reinjured the knee on a first-half drive and was out for the rest of the game. Iowa lost, 80-72. Many a Hawkeye fan would tell you Iowa would have won that game had Lester not been hurt. Lester had 10 points in 12 minutes. He made all four of his field goal tries and both of his free throws.

Had the eventual first-round NBA draft pick not been injured in Dayton ... who knows?

Two years ago, however, Iowa got a good break from Dayton. The Hawkeyes were paired against Dayton in the NIT, Iowa's first postseason appearance after a five-year absence. Dayton was higher-seeded than the Hawkeyes, but couldn't host the game because the University of Dayton Arena was booked with the NCAA's "First Four" games. So Dayton came to Iowa as the "home team."

A boisterous crowd of 13,190 came to Carver-Hawkeye Arena to support the "visitors," and Iowa scored an 84-75 triumph for its first postseason victory since an NIT win at Iowa State in 2003.

The Hawkeyes return to Dayton for the first time in 34 years to play Tennessee in an NCAA First Four game Wednesday night. And so ends this post.

Except it doesn't. Because none other than current Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery's Siena team beat Ohio State in the 2009 NCAA tournament, 74-72 in double-overtime, in ... Dayton!


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