First off, I love Time Warner’s refusal to display the score between Dayton and William & Mary during most of the first half today. It made it a lot easier to focus on how much fun the kids were having during the game, which is really the point of intercollegiate athletics when you think about it. Not knowing the score added an exciting element to an early-season contest, one I think the NCAA should seriously consider this off-season.
I think we all knew William & Mary would be a worthwhile challenge for the home team, with four starters returning from a twenty win club, and that they were. In a game that seemed lost, won and then lost again, the Flyers finally prevailed, 69-66. The win assures that Dayton enters next week’s Advocare Invitational against Iowa with a perfect 3-0 record, just as it was scripted before the year began.
The Flyers struggled mightily in the first half, scoring a mere 21 points due to 36% shooting from the floor (a dastardly 1-of-8 from three-point land). Toss in ten turnovers, and the Cagers were lucky to be down just nine against a “fundamentally sound” William & Mary squad.
The second half was a different story as the Flyers chipped away at the lead before a 11-2 run midway through the latter frame put UD in the lead, 49-47, on a Charles Cooke steal and layup. Dayton extended the lead to nine before a W&M surge gave the Tribe a two-point lead with just 1:29 remaining in the game. Archie Miller’s squad put the clamps on their opposition from then on out, making enough stops and foul-shots to take home a three-point triumph.
The Flyers struggled mightily from behind the arc, hitting six of their twenty attempts from deep (30%). Turnovers were once again an issue for UD, sixteen in total, resulting in nineteen points for William & Mary. This has been a glaring problem area for UD over the first three games of the season, something that must be addressed before the season gets further along.
On the flip side, Dayton’s rebounding has been a tremendous asset over the first three games of the year. The Flyers are currently enjoying a 12.7 rebounding margin, an impressive mark no matter the opposition. Iowa will be a true test on the boards, as the Hawkeyes are one of the nation’s better rebounding teams (averaging 43.3 boards per game).
Charles Cooke and Steve McElvene have been better than advertised. Cooke is providing the scoring touch UD sorely needed from the wing, and the Chief provides an interior presence the program has lacked for years. Scoochie is going to do what he does, Kyle Davis is going to do what he does. Dayton has all the pieces to make another tournament run (yeah, I’m talking about the tournament before December, what of it?), the Flyers just need to stay consistent and injury-free — no small task when dealing with 18-22 year old men.
In summation, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about this afternoon. William & Mary was a talented team with experience and confidence. The Flyers took their best shot and lived to see another day. On to Orlando. Tell your family to go fuck themselves on Thanksgiving night, there’s mid-major basketball to watch.