Say what you will about Dayton basketball, God knows we have, but they always seem to keep things interesting. Reeling after a loss at home to Weber State and a lackluster effort against Northern Illinois, the Flyers went into Tuscaloosa and inexplicably emerged with an 81-76 victory against the Crimson Tide. The Flyers shot out to a sizable lead during the game’s opening minutes, ahead 16-5 with just under fifteen minutes to go, and never looked back.
Dayton fans are like scorned and abused wives, always taking their husbands back when he finally shows up sober, sweater-vested and bearing scratch-off tickets. Just when you are ready to shut the door on them, start dating their richer bosses, they pull a move of bewilderment out of their ass and have you eating out of their motor-oil stained hands again. It’s a pattern of abuse that we’ve just learned to cope with, something our friends and family don’t even bring up anymore. They just know they’ll be sitting in their living rooms one day, telling the assembled cops , “I knew Dayton would kill him eventually.”
Dayton did what was expected, out-rebounding the undersized Tide, and what was unexpected – hitting 49% of their shots from the floor, 42% from the three-point line and a solid 78% from the free-throw line. UD enigmatically handled Alabama’s defensive pressure with surprising ease and stellar ball-movement. Archie, more of this, please.
Kevin Dillard arguably enjoyed his best game in a Dayton uniform (I have no interest in actually arguing this fact), which look awful with those newly added stripes by the way, finishing with a game-high 25 points and 6 assists. Dillard keyed UD’s first-half effort, scoring 17 points in the opening frame to lead the Flyers to a 38-33 halftime lead. KD finished the night 7-of-14 from the floor and a perfect 8-of-8 from the stripe. His control in the face of the Tide’s pressure was a principal factor in the Flyers’ victory tonight. Tell him that when you see him.
Josh Benson also played out of his mind tonight, racking up 21 points to go along with 6 rebounds. JB had some earth-shattering slam-jams and was effective from the foul-line. Additionally, Twitter informs me that Josh and his POA girlfriend celebrated their two-year anniversary today, the white poison is completely ineffective on special occasions, folks.
The other two members of the Functional Foursome, Vee Sanford (11 pts) and Devin Oliver (9 pts, 7 rebs), picked their spots and contributed enough to be considered assets. This, as we have already learned, is essential to UD’s success. Certainly, we cannot expect Dillard and Benson to go off like they did tonight every time out; Sanford and Oliver will have to remain active on both ends for the Flyers to compete steadily over the next three months.
While Bama certainly did itself no favors on the offensive end, connecting on just 37% of its field goal attempts, just 28% from behind the arc, the Tide still played their prototypical pressure defense that gives most of its’ opponents fits and allows Anthony Grant’s team to remain in games when the shots aren’t falling. Dayton handled the pressure with aplomb, turning the ball over just 13 times against Bama’s pressing attack.
Tonight, they looked like a basketball team capable of competing with just about anyone. However, the word “momentum” and “building on a victory” have never been a part of this program’s vocabulary. Who knows what will unfold in the Sweater Centre this weekend against Miami, just know predictions and educated guesses, like having your girlfriend douche with Coca-Cola because you didn’t pull out in time (h/t Rosceaux), are utterly futile. Dayton could come out and score -5 points and I wouldn’t be surprised. That said, the Flyers should beat the other Miami with little fanfare. So take heed.