Dayton faced off against Nebraska tonight in an opening round game of the Wooden Legacy, looking to advance and faceoff against UCLA tomorrow night. The Flyers came out flat in the first half, shocking I know, and had to once again fight and claw their way back into the ballgame. The Flyers took their first lead late in the game, but it was not to be. Nebraska simply made more plays and a Scoochie Smith leaner came up just short in the end. Dayton goes back to the Fullerton Holiday Inn 2-2 on the season, a likely matchup with the Portland Pilots await the good guys tomorrow night.
Nebraska shot out to 12-4 lead quickly, leading to Archie calling the first timeout of the game. Miller reminded his squad that they weren’t playing 1990 UNLV or the 1985 Chicago Bears and the boys in red responded in kind.
UD went on a 9-1 run, three three-pointers by Sam Miller (!), X Williams (!!) and Charles Cooke closing the gap to 22-16. Dayton started attacking the basket and as a result dipped into the bonus from the charity stripe. The Flyers got to the line thirteen times in the first frame, converting eleven freebies. Huge for a team that was offensively anemic for most of the half.
The Flyers didn’t convert a field-goal in the final four minutes of the half, allowing Nebraska to take a 40-31 lead into what I assume was a very small and unattended locker room. Dayton shot a measly 24% from the floor, relying primarily on second-chance points (the Flyers inexplicably pulled down TEN offensive boards in the first twenty minutes) and foul-shots to keep within shouting distance.The second half started out well for the enemy. The Cornhuskers got some easy buckets, hit some open shots and watched Dayton trip over its’ own dick. NU held a thirteen point-lead at the first TV timeout and things basically stayed the same from that point, UD getting too comfortable jacking threes and Nebraska dumping the ball into the paint getting easy buckets.
Dayton stayed within striking distance, and back-to-back threes from X Williams (!) and someone named John Crosby cut the margin to six with around eight minutes to play. Tim Miles called a timeout, gave his players some cookies his wife made the night before and some quick etiquette lessons, and the show continued – Nebraska 59, Dayton 53.
Dayton continued to chip away, the Cornhusker lead seeming to hover around five points for the next six minutes. Nebraska led 71-64 at the final television timeout and the game seemed out of reach for what was an inconsistent UD offense.
Nevertheless, the Flyers refused to quit, hung around and made Nebraska work for everything it got down the stretch. The Huskers, in turn, gave Dayton every chance they could over the last two minutes of the contest, turning the ball over five times during that period. A Charles Cooke steal led to an and-one, and suddenly the Flyers were down just a point. Nebraska inbounded the ball with 26 ticks on the clock. Xeyrius Williams stole the ball and, rather than take four steps and run an opponent over like a running back at the goalline, calmly handed it over to Scoochie Smith – who drove down the lane for a patented BIG BALLS moment. The Flyers took their first lead of the game, 78-77, and it looked like the Cagers were going to somehow escape with the victory.But it was not to be. Nebraska’s Glynn Watson drove to the hoop, he had his way off the dribble all night, and drew a foul. Two foul shots later the Huskers were back up one with nine seconds left. UD was out of timeouts, but it was clearly Scoochie time anyway. No need to draw anything up, hand it to Smith, let him drag his balls through the lane for the W.
In reality, the senior point-guard took it the length of the floor, penetrated to the rim but seemed to have left his feet too far from the bucket to get a decent shot off (he might have been trying to pull a D Wade “fall to the ground on the drive to get a cheap whistle move,” but that’s just a theory). Ed Morrow, who was a force all night for Tim Miles’ club, grabbed the board and it was all she wrote. Dayton came up just short, 80-78. The Flyers drop to 2-2 on the season, the loser of two straight.
Some quick takeaways:
♠ Dayton’s on-ball defense was uncharacteristically awful tonight. Glynn Watson, in particular, had no issues getting to the basket against Kyle Davis and Crosby. If Watson wasn’t taking it to the rim, he was dishing it off to Ed Morrow for easy buckets. The Flyers gave up 40 points in the paint tonight. Folks, that’s not good.
♣ Trey Landers did participate tonight, I repeat, Trey Landers did participate tonight! And what a performance it was – three minutes played, an assist, a turnover and THREE FOULS. Trey is apparently the team enforcer.
♥ We said it before, but let’s repeat it for emphasis: Dayton, in its current form, needs Scoochie and Cooke to carry the load offensively for the Flyers to have a chance this year. A combined 10-of-25 from the field isn’t going to get it done. If Sam Miller and X Williams didn’t step up tonight (yeah, you heard me), this could have been a drubbing.
♦ Speaking of Miller and X, they came out to prove the haters wrong – and I mean you guys, not me. Definitely not me. The two super-sophs went 6-of-8 from behind the arc and combined for 12 rebounds (Williams grabbed nine of those, but anytime you get more than a rebound or two from Miller it’s cause for celebration). Williams finished with what I assume is a career-high fifteen points and Sammy Macchio chipped in eleven. I don’t expect them to become consistent offensive players, but the twosome doesn’t lack for confidence. And in life, that’s half the battle.
♠ A major surprise – your Flyers grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, leading to 13 second-chance points. But Blackie, you’re saying, they enjoyed an offensive rebounding edge of ten (16-6) over the Huskers yet still couldn’t put them away? Yes, that’s what I’m saying. Nevertheless, we know this area of the game will continue to be a thorn in the Flyers’ side all season. It was just nice to see a vintage Dayton performance on the boards tonight. Brian Gregory would have smiled.
Now the Flyers turn their attention to (probably) Portland tomorrow night. It’s apparent that UD won’t get the quality win(s) they hoped for coming into the Wooden Legacy, but the chance for two wins is still on the table. I’d suggest the Cagers grab them.
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.