The threes were raining early for North Florida, putting a bit of a scare into the Sweater Nation earlier this afternoon at the Decibel Dungeon.
Give North Florida credit, they do one thing well and they certainly don’t stray from that strategy. After torching the nets from the three-point line in the first half, UNF went 9-of-16 from deep (56%), the Osprey shooting cooled off a bit in the second, as UNF connected on just 5-of-16 (31%) behind the arc.
For an offense that’s ultimately predicated on trading threes for twos, a sub 40% shooting performance in a half will allow the opposition to make up (or build up) ground quickly. Dayton put behind an uneven first half performance and used their size and depth to overcome their opponents from the Sun Belt in the game’s final frame.
When you consider that UNF outright refuses to play defense, a superior performance from the Flyers in the second-half was more than enough to put the game out of reach for the boys from Jacksonville. UD began knocking down shots from the arc, got to the line and when the clock hit triple zeros, the Flyers walked away with an empathic 86-71 victory over the Ospreys.
Outside of Beau Beech’s nearly unconscious shooting from three, the senior forward hit six of his eight attempts, the Flyers did a solid job on the Osprey perimeter shooters. UD held Travis Mackey and Dallas Moore in check, allowing the duo to combine on just two of their combined ten shots from the arc.
Big Steve took advantage of North Florida’s lack of bulk and reluctance to bang down low with a performance worthy on bronzing. Chief finished the game with fourteen point and sixteen rebounds and threw in four blocks for good measure. It was the best performance by a Dayton big man since segregation.
Charles Cooke was excellent as well, scoring a game-high 24 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Kendall Pollard turned in another honest effort, finishing the contest with 11 points scored, five boards and a game-high 8 assists. Even DURRELL was able to rack up double-digit scoring against the Ospreys, ten points in seventeen minutes of court time.
Scoochie Smith was nearly flawless, connecting on four deep threes and avoiding turning the ball over in thirty-three minutes of play. As a team, UD managed just ten turnovers, a season low (and certainly North Florida’s hands-off defensive approach was a major part of that, but still, beggars can’t be choosers).
This was a game of survival for Dayton. You stay the course while North Florida bombs away and eventually you make enough stops to give you some breathing room. UD never panicked, never switched off from their defensive approach and eventually wore UNF down to a nub. It’s the type of win that won’t turn heads but we all know the type of upset potential a team like North Florida poses to the non-believers. Keep the Ospreys in your hearts.
A trip to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt becomes UD’s last opportunity to make an impression before conference play begins. The Commodores pack a physical attack fueled by an extremely tall group of gentlemen, going to need Chief and Pollard on the floor as much as possible. Go forth and prosper.
Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o' D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.