Coming into the Puerto Rico Tip-off (which sounds less like a basketball event and more like a theme party at Michael Phelps’ house), two wins seemed like the minimum expectations. The event has the facade of a tournament, but it’s really just three neutral floor games against teams who wouldn’t dare come to UD Arena. After gutting out a win against Johnny Basketball and coming up 4 minutes short against UConn, the Cagers needed to handle an extremely mediocre Boston College team to avoid a mild disaster. Easy enough, right? Well…
Dayton got off to a nice start. Devon Scott was assertive from the opening tip, scoring 5 of the first 10 points. Kendall Pollard showed once again what he can do, easily handling a mismatch for easy buckets. Jordan Sibert seemed to find his footing, hitting four first have 3s. Dyshawn Pierre was Dyshawn Pierre. Even with minimal contributions from role players UD coasted to a 34-27 halftime lead, and all seemed to be going nicely.
The first 15 minutes of the second half were a different story. Dayton came out so flat after the break I was afraid Brian Gregory was back on the bench. Plodding offense and grab-ass defense allowed BC to make a run and put the outcome in real doubt heading toward the final media timeout. With Scoochie Smith still finding his footing as the point guard of a team with high expectations, the defense needed to clamp down, and the best players needed to put the team on their backs doe.
Cue the Pierre and Sibert show. Two Sibert free throws, a Pierre bucket, and a Pierre to Sibert ally-oop gave Dayton a 58-52 lead it would not relinquish. The defense finished things off, allowing BC just a single point and zero offensive rebounds in the final 4:20 of the game. Four Scoochie free throws and a Kyle Davis dunk inflated the margin a bit, as UD pulled away for a 65-53 win. Sibert led the way with 20 points. Pierre was his usual self, 16 points, 6 boards, 4 assists. Devon Scott had a mostly good game, 10 points and 6 boards, though he did vanish quite a bit for a long stretch.
As I said above, two wins met minimum expectations, even with only 8 healthy scholarship players, so there’s really not too much to complain about. Scoochie Smith did not have a good weekend, but you have to believe his play will improve greatly. Despite not playing well in either win, you have to be a bit encouraged by how they put the hammer down in the final four minutes of both games. However, as well as they played against UConn, they lacked the late game offensive creativity to beat a top 20 opponent.
Some good, a little bad, and everyone will return home with all limbs in tact. That’ll do.
Up next: Back in the dungeon on Saturday vs longtime rival UIC.