Did Dayton let Baylor off the hook twice? Maybe. Like most of you, I had a sneaking suspicion the Flyers would pay for letting a fourteen point lead dwindle to a five-point margin over the last five minutes of the first half. UD went scoreless to close out the half, allowing Baylor to regain some momentum and confidence going into the break.
Flash forward to the second half and Dayton once again seemed in control of the game, sporting a ten-point lead with just over seven minutes to go, a Vee Sanford three stretching the UD lead to double-digits, 59-49. Then, the wheels slowly fell from Dayton’s offense. Baylor pounded the ball inside, getting two dunks and two foul-shots to cut the UD lead to just four with five minutes to go. Devin Oliver’s three with the shot clock expiring pushed the Flyers’ edge back up to four, but Gary Franklin immediately answered with a three of his own to cut the margin back down to one.
A Devin Oliver missed jumper, a Cory Jefferson follow on a Kenny Chery shot gave Baylor its first lead since it led 1-0 in the opening moments of the game. After what seemed like an impossible amount of timeouts, Archie placed the ball in Dayton’s best penetrator, Vee Sanford. A ball screen forced Baylor to switch, and Jefferson, the Bears’ best interior defender, ended up guarding Sanford. Sanford drove to his left, pulled up, and rather than trying to draw contact, floated away from the basket, putting up a shot that rolled off the back of the rim. Devin Oliver’s tip rolled off just as agonizingly, and Baylor had their comeback, 67-66.
A disappointing result to be sure, but certainly not a discouraging performance by any means. Dayton shot the ball very well and, outside of the rebounding effort, have little to ruminate over. The Flyers may have suffered lapses in aggression offensively, which may have cost them two separate and sizeable leads, but they had an excellent chance to pull the game out in the end, and that’s something they can hang their hats on.
Dayton needs a win over Cal to leave the island with two wins, something I’m assuming Archie set out as a goal before landing in Maui. The victory over Gonzaga will likely stand up come March, a victory over Cal maybe less so. Regardless, we now know that this Dayton team can play and certainly compete in the Atlantic Ten. Jordan Sibert is a versatile offensive threat we haven’t seen since Brian Roberts or Tony Stanley. Devin Oliver and Vee Sanford seem assured of having exceptional senior seasons, and Dyshawn Pierre will have more good days than bad. If UD gets any kind of production in the frontcourt, any, this has all the makings of a special season. A win tonight would have been nice, sure, but the long-term prospects of this team remain promising in spite of the defeat.