Sometimes the story writes itself.
The moment was as close to perfect as you can get. The clock hit zero, KD threw the ball in the air, and then immediately sought out Bucky to deliver an important message to the Flyers legend. It was the old white grandfather looking up at his black grandson. The picture from JABLO represented the face of the program from the beginning looking upon what it has become in January 2017. It was a “hey look, we just took care of our goddamn business.”
On a bitter cold night in the Gem City, the expectation was that we would see a good college basketball game, and such an event has become customary this time of year on Edwin C Moses Blvd. What we got was one of the best basketball games you will see this season in the Atlantic 10 Conference.Right from the jump Rhode Island set the tone for the game, which would be physical defense and clutch shooting. Luckily UD would be up to the task all evening.
Our Flyers team began the game in familiar fashion: they started slow and went down 7-0 immediately. Kendall would kick off the scoring with a slick layup, but there wasn’t much to get excited about in the first 12 minutes for the home Sweaters. UD found themselves down 19-9 with 8 minutes to go in the first. Early on, Hurley’s game plan was to open up the lane and make it look appetizing, then collapse and smother anyone who entered. Consequently, this also took away open three points looks because UD struggled to penetrate and kick out to find space. But as with most of the games this season, Archie got the boys to regroup, and after a quick run to pull the game back to 5, the Cagers would trade blows and go into the break down only 2. A Scoochie “clear the fuck out” play ended the half, and he never really got a clean look at the bucket. 27-25 URI.
The second half was two stories that conveniently split themselves at the 10-minute mark. The first 10 saw UD tie the score four times, only to see Rhode Island come right down the floor and answer with a three. Then (as David Jablonski kindly pointed out in his fantastic write-up of the game), down 5 at 49-44, UD rattled off an 11-0 run and would not relinquish the lead for the rest of the evening. The run was capped by some DURRELL free throws, which were his only points of the night, (and now has as many points as UD has played conference games) but I digress.
The finish to the game was really about the dude with the biggest balls on the court, and you know his name to be Scoochie Smith. In the last 9 minutes of the game, Scoochie tallied 6 points, 2 assists, 3 boards and 1 steal. He quite literally changed the game in every aspect. He controlled the pace and ran the show. The only real negative thing you can say about him is below, when EC Matthews baited him into a fast break layup, then proceeded to swat Scoochie’s weak-ass nonsense into the third row. I watched this live, from an angle behind the play, it was hands-down the best block I’ve seen this season (and probably last season too).
This block by E.C. Matthews sends us into the under-4 timeout trailing Dayton 57-54… 3:43 remaining pic.twitter.com/N4kEKQp1s1
— Rhody MBB (@RhodyMBB) January 7, 2017
The boys continued to exchange punches down the stretch, and 6 would be the largest lead UD could put together at any point. Matthews made another clutch 3 with just over a minute to go, and with UD needing a bucket to keep the lead safe, one of the veteran old-boys delivered. Kendall got the ball of the top of the key, cleared the white jerseys out, and went straight to work.
— David Jablonski (@DavidPJablonski) January 7, 2017
From there (despite a number of missed free throws) the Flyers were able to do just enough to secure the win on the home floor, and a rebound by Kyle Davis sealed the win…
— Grant Kelly (@GrantKelly07) January 7, 2017
It was the signature win UD desperately needed to keep impressing the selection committee, and frankly, finally gave those wearing red a tangible reason to believe THIS is the team to beat in the Atlantic 10. We saw glimpses of talent in the non-con, we saw it all come together against Bonaventure, and Friday night at the Decibel Dungeon, we saw the True Team take one more crucial step to gaining control in the conference that can, and should, be theirs. Let’s get to the takes.
One note: If you came for officiating takes, you won’t get them from me. We won, who cares, the calls sucked, there will be more. If anything the officiating got the sweaters more pissed off and the place got LOWDer. That’s that. Moving on.
The Balls of Scoochie
Scoochie didn’t make THE play of the game, but he did make every play that was necessary to get the win. We’ve said it many times before, but he runs the show. When the game is on the line, he wants the ball. He’s the safest hands UD has had in many years at point guard, and it may be many years until we get another 4-year general with the caliber of skill he brings to the floor. He finished with 21 points on 8-13 shooting, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals. There was a big game, so Scoochie was there to carry the load…so the story goes.
Note: Because I took so long to post this article, we also know that Scoochie got named A10 Player of the Week. Neat.
The Chicago Boys
Kyle Davis is back to being the sparkplug of the Flyers on a nightly basis. He turned in 33 minutes of work, 10 pts, 5 reb, 5-8 from the line. His greatest strength continues to be the defensive end of the floor, and then got all “vintage Kyle” on us and started bringing the physicality to the offensive end to draw fouls as well.
On the evening of his birthday, Kendall Pollard put together one of his most complete efforts of the season as well, finishing with 18 points on 8-16 shooting. With the absence of Cooke, KP was asked many times to get something done late in the shot clock, and often delivered with his flailing-limbed lunges at the basket. It is sometimes just a marvel that he gets the ball anywhere the rim.
The continued improvement of Ryan Mikesell.
Mikesell got those “old man at the YMCA” moves. He’s the dude that’s blown past you before you know you’ve been blown past. He’s never the most athletic guy, the fastest guy or the best basketball player on the court, he just plays good fundamental ball and its getting him points more often these days. I had a couple brews with some Sweaters in the Flight Deck after the game that just cannot stop raving about him, weird right? He finished with 9 points and 7 boards in 27 minutes of good burn.
More lost and more erratic than ever. He’s turning into an actual liability on the court. It’s bad, guys.
The leadership of the seniors.
Charles didn’t play, URI was favored, many could only talk about how good they were, and our 3 seniors frankly couldn’t care less. They know their own game, they know how to win, and I hope they continue to treat everyone else in the A10 like they’re in the way. There will also never be any feeling like the comfort that comes with playing in the old barn, but you already knew that. With what we’ve seen to this point, beating the Flyers at The Arena will be the toughest task in the conference this season. Get your tickets early.
It’s been a couple days, the dust has settled slightly, but this win still feels damn good. URI-UD was the early showcase in the A10 this season, and it absolutely delivered and then some. Many called it a “slugfest” and I couldn’t agree more. This was just a damn good basketball game from start to finish from two teams who will be the class of the conference until we head to Pittsburgh. Dayton is now exactly halfway through the season, and if I told you in October that we would be sitting at 12-3 (3-0) on January 9th, I’m fairly certain you wouldn’t mind. This morning the Flyers cracked the RPI top 25 as well, but that could be short lived given that the respective RPI numbers of opponents moving forward are as follows: 86, 188, 138, 254. If UD can run the table and head to the Siegel Center at 7-0, hold on to your butts.
Quick shout out to all those at the game on Friday, place was goddamn LOWD without the students. The sweaters are called upon a few times a year to pick up the slack when the young ones have left the nest, and there was just a great energy in The Arena Friday night. That’s why we come out to support this program. It’s hard not to love this team, I mean look at this shit…The Flyers will be back at it in Amherst against Umass on Wednesday evening, a place where they are 1-4 in their last 5 visits over 10 years. The momentum is starting to build, you best stay LOWD.