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April 1, 2010
NEW YORK (AP) -Dayton denied last year's national champs another title and took home one of its own for the first time in 42 years.
Marcus Johnson scored 20 points and the Flyers downed North Carolina, 79-68, Thursday night to win the NIT.
Reserve guard Paul Williams added 16 points for No. 3 seed Dayton (25-12), which bounced back from a disappointing year to capture its third NIT title and first since 1968.
Will Graves shot North Carolina back into the game in the second half, finishing with 25 points for the fourth-seeded Tar Heels (20-17), who started the season hoping for back-to-back NCAA championships.
Chris Wright had 14 points for the Flyers, as did tournament MVP Chris Johnson - who scored 22 in a semifinal victory over Mississippi.
Coach Roy Williams and the Tar Heels fell short in their attempt to grab a somewhat dubious piece of college basketball history. A victory Thursday night would have made them the first team to follow up an NCAA national championship with an NIT crown the next year.
There was a bright spot for North Carolina in this one, though. Deon Thompson, nursing an aching back, set an NCAA record for career games played with 152, breaking a mark held by Kentucky's Wayne Turner (1996-99) and Florida's Walter Hodge (2006-09).
Thompson had 16 points and 13 rebounds in the semifinals Tuesday night, when the Tar Heels scored the final five points in regulation to force overtime and then beat Rhode Island 68-67. The senior forward finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds in this one.
Senior point guard London Warren was held out of the starting lineup by Dayton coach Brian Gregory for violating team rules. Rob Lowery started in place of Warren, who entered less than 4 minutes in and played 24 minutes. He had a team-high seven assists.
Dayton turned up its defense and held the cold-shooting Tar Heels to a pair of field goals over the final 8:09 in the first half, closing with a 17-4 run that gave the Flyers a 45-32 lead going into the break.
Williams hit a trio of 3-pointers during the run, and Dayton got thunderous dunks from Devin Searcy, Wright and Marcus Johnson.
Dayton shot 58.1 percent in the first half, but it was the Tar Heels who came out strong after halftime. Graves hit a pair of 3s in a 12-1 run and waved his arms to get North Carolina fans going as they chanted "UNC! UNC!"