Welcome back, college basketball. It felt good getting back inside a UD Arena mostly full of sweater vests, with the smell of stale coffee lingering in the air. Feels like home. After a week of shameless plugging, the U of D debuted their new entrance and player introductions. Verdict: a major improvement, even with a boring song during warm ups. The two pregame videos were well done, and dimming the lights during the starting lineups gave the arena a different, interesting look. Naturally, Dr Willie decided it was all about him and wore his light-brite jacket. No one things they matter more than Willie. Never change, please. All in all, give it a 7.
The game itself was rather boring to be honest. After a sluggish start, Dayton jumped ahead and never looked back, putting it on cruise control with a double-digit lead through much of the second half. Kevin Dillard struggled for the first 20 minutes, but found his offense late and rather quietly finished with a damn good stat line, 12 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds. Josh Benson played through a bit of foul trouble but looked good, 14 points and 8 boards on 7-9 shooting. Jalen Robinson, Devon Scott, and Dyshawn Pierre popped their cherry with decent outings. Everyone’s favorite French person, with only three days of practice, played a quality 18 minutes, finishing with 4 points. Derenbecker was kinda there. He did make a shot, though, so that’s nice. I think he will improve as the year goes on, but he looks to be more of a role player than a major contributor. That’s ok.
I really liked Devin Oliver’s game. He will never be a star, but he can be a “super role player”. Staying within himself and looking more confident than ever, Oliver put up 8 points, 3 boards, and 5 assists, to only 1 turnover. That’s who he needs to be every game. Encouraging first effort.
The star of the day was Vee Sanford. Playing what may be his first meaningful basketball in three years, Vee lit it up to the tune of 18 points on 7-10 shooting, 3 for 5 from behind the arc. He’s the best all-around athlete on the team, and showed he can score in multiple ways. He won’t average 18 per game, but if this is the kind of player he will be, Dayton can have a truly dynamic starting back court this year.
The first game of a season can often look like a glorified exhibition, and this was one of those times. Teams are still coming together and typically playing a clearly inferior opponent. To ASU’s credit, they are a scrappy bunch. What they lack in skill they make up with physical play. In the words of Mr. Blackburn, Kendrick Washington looks like bouncer, and he plays like one, too. A 6’7″ mountain of a man, he led ASU with 15 points and 9 boards, to go along with zero fucks given. Well coached, the Red Wolves played hard and hit several tough jumpers, but the outcome was never in doubt. Dayton just had too much talent.
The competition gets much tougher on Thursday, as the Flyers kick off the Charleston Classic against Colorado in the first true litmus test of the season.