What a way to close the Sweater Centre. After 45 minutes that would make James Naismith want to go back in time and kill himself before he invented the game of basketball, UD slugged out a victory, 68-67, over the VCU Rams. The victory results in a three-way tie for the regular season title, with UD, Bonnies and VCU all sharing a piece of the crown. Is a co-co-championship something worth celebrating? Only people buying t-shirts commemorating it could explain that.
While it is true that Dayton’s win comes at the expense of a NCAA bubble team on the road, it was encouraging to see the Flyers play ugly and actually come out on top for a change. UD, like their opponent, was dreadful offensively. Gem City shot 35% from the field, 29% from three and just 64% from the charity stripe (VCU wasn’t any better, putting up a horrendous 34/25/52 on the night). It was just about the most evenly awful performance one could imagine.
Although the game was not pleasant to watch, it did have the wire-to-wire aspect that the kids seem to love so much. The two teams traded kidney punches all night and the margin was rarely more than a bucket or two. It was patently obvious that the last possession might win the game, and that the player with the biggest and lowest pair of nuts would make the difference.
Enter Scoochie Smith, government name Dayshon Smith. Native of the Bronx, an Electronic Media major.
Scoochie followed up his 26 point outburst against Richmond with an even more impressive 29 point effort tonight against VCU, a career high for the junior point-guard. With the rest of the squad putting shots off the side of the backboard or missing the rim completely, it was Smith that kept the game close for the Flyers. Scooch scored six hard-earned points after the last TV timeout to carry the Flyers down the stretch.
After Kendall Pollard sank two (!) free-throws to pull UD to within two with 34 seconds, VCU”s Doug Brooks missed both of his foul-shots to give the Flyers possession of the ball with a chance to win or tie (my fear was that Dayton would fall susceptible to the siren song that is the three-point shot with the game on the line). Dayton inbounded and it was immediately clear that Archie didn’t want anyone but #11 to take the deciding shot. Scoochie danced around the perimeter, brushed off two screens and drove to his left and calmly laid the ball off the glass to knot the game at 55. The Rams called a silly timeout and failed to score on the last play of regulation. It was an extra five minutes for the LOWD Nation.
Even though Dayton was…flying…high after forcing the overtime, the outlook seemed bleak. Dyshawn Pierre, who had a Senior Night performance he would like to forget, had fouled out during the closing minutes of regulation and Kendall Pollard was already hampered with four personals. With Charles Cooke struggling to get going, it appeared Scooch would have to put the Flyers on his back over the last five minutes. Could his huge danglers carry the day? Yes, yes they could.
Smith hit a huge three to start the extra period and was seemingly involved in every possession until the final buzzer. VCU actually had a four-point lead with a minute and a half to go, but four straight freebies from Scoochie and Cooke tied the game with 48 seconds to go. The Rams’ JeQuan Lewis was fouled by Xeyrius Williams (yes, the X-Man was in the game at this point), but only converted one from the charity-stripe. Dayton had the ball, down one, with 27 seconds left and Archie Miller was getting out the wheelbarrow once again.
I would have bet my savings that Scoochie would have taken the last shot for Dayton, but it’s clear that wagering and Scooch isn’t a good mix for me. Instead, the ball found his way into the wanting hands of Kyle Davis. Davis caught the ball and immediately darted to the bucket. My initial theory was that KD was confused and thought there was less time on the clock than there actually was. Now I’m starting to think that there are big black balls sprinkled throughout the UD roster, more than enough to go around. Davis did what he does best — drove to the hoop without any regard for his life and converted a tough bucket to give Dayton the game’s final lead.
How the refs, who called such a tight game all night, didn’t whistle Alie-Cox for contact there, I will never know. Luckily, it didn’t matter in the end. UD had the victory, the crowd had its victim and Kyle Davis added another clutch play to his expanding catalog.
Although there was plenty to be concerned about after the contest was over — UD getting absolutely hammered on the defensive glass chief among them — it doesn’t seem to matter now. The regular season has come to a conclusion and a new season has begun. We clearly know that this team, when healthy and clicking, can compete with just about anyone in the country. Dayton gets a chance to regroup, re-energize and hopefully build off the past week going forward.
The Atlantic Ten Tournament bracket is now set it stone, UD opens up Friday at noon against the winner of the Fordham/Richmond tilt on Thursday afternoon. If you think the regular season title is horseshit (particularly one that is carved up like a prison snitch), and I submit it is, then the real prize is just three wins away. Bring the LOWD to Brooklyn.
Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o' D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.