The A-10, being what it is, is full of landmines. Today, unfortunately, marked the first time UD stepped on one. I realize we harp on it incessantly, but it bears repeating, the major drawback of playing in a league like the Atlantic Ten in its current form is that there aren’t many “good” league losses that won’t adversely affect your overall body of work. Gone are the days when Dayton could walk away from a loss against Xavier or Temple with their heads still held high, RPI unfazed. UD is the pole sitter of the conference now, the Flyers take everyone’s best shot.
La Salle gave UD their best effort of the season, taking down Dayton 61-57 in the process. It was the Explorers first A10 win, having lost their first two conference games against UMass and Fordham. UD has now dropped five of their last seven games in Tom Gola Arena, the Flyers are simply snake-bitten when visiting the Explorers.
Give Dr. John a ton of credit, the Explorers completely changed the manner in which they attacked offensively and it paid off today. La Salle slowed the game down to a snail’s pace on offense, which had the dual-effect of shortening the game and cutting down the Explorer’s turnovers. It was the college basketball equivalent of waterboarding.
Giannini was more than happy to sit back and run clock while the Flyers continued to miss perimeter shots. I’m hard pressed to say Archie got completely outcoached, so let’s just say Coach Miller was “outmaneuvered” by the good doctor. Giannini played the hand he was dealt and figured out a way to maximize La Salle’s chances of winning. That’s what good coaches do. UD is 8-1 in games where they have seventy possessions or more, 4-2 in games with less than seventy possessions (and the Flyers are a lucky Kyle Davis shot against Miami from being 3-3 in those contests). There’s clearly some utility in slowing things down against Dayton.
Another result of the Explorers’ strategy was inhibiting UD’s transition offense. Dayton has consistently scored double-digit points with their “get it and go” approach this season. Today the Flyers were held to a single fast-break bucket. Two points. Giannini’s game plan took that aspect of the game completely away from Dayton. La Salle wasn’t necessarily sure it could win by taking the air out of the ball, but they were damn sure it was their best chance to stay within striking distance. The Explorers packed it in defensively, UD scored just twelve points in the paint, and allowed UD to bomb away from outside.
Of course, the Explorers’ don’t beat Dayton today if the Flyers had even an average shooting performance. UD shot 31% from the floor, their lowest shooting percentage on the season. A Dayton team on the road shooting poorly will rarely best their opponent, it is a scientific certainty.
The loss accentuated a problem Dayton has had before and will likely have again – where does this team get points from outside of Charles Cooke? Cooke has been the team’s most consistent offensive player, the one guy Archie can depend on to get a bucket when he needs one. Cooke did all he could against the Explorers, scoring a game-high 21 points and connecting on 4-of-6 from behind the arc. Outside of Dyshawn Pierre, who clocked in with a decent 12 and 4, no one on Dayton’s roster produced much of anything.
Scoochie Smith had one of his worst games in recent memory, Big Steve was as inconspicuous as a 6’11” black guy can possibly be and Kyle Davis barely registered a blip in his twenty-seven minutes of play. The bench was atrocious as well, shooting a combined 5-of-18 from the field. Simply put, the Flyers didn’t have enough firepower to take down what may end up being the worst team in the Atlantic Ten.
Many people will likely point to Kendall Pollard’s absence, the junior forward is still recovering from an Achilles strain, as a persuasive explanation for the Flyers’ loss today. Don’t let them sell you that bullshit. La Salle was missing two of its better players as well and only rolled out one player off the bench against UD this afternoon.
Whether or not Dayton would have won today with Pollard in the lineup is up for debate (and is, of course, irrelevant). What’s not unsettled is whether or not UD had enough talent to beat the Explorers today. They did, they do. Dayton rolled off a thirty-point win over UMass without KP on Wednesday and were double-digit favorites even without Pollard coming into the game with La Salle. The simple fact is that the Flyers were taken out of their comfort zone and didn’t have enough people step up and knock down shots.
Again, all praise to Allah and Dr. John. Both, I’m convinced, were instrumental in La Salle’s win over Dayton today. I spent the first two paragraphs of the La Salle preview trying to convince you that we had nothing to worry about, that this team would be different – this edition of the Flyers wouldn’t crumble in the face of success. I’m not ready to take it all back, Dayton didn’t do irreparable harm as far as the direction of their season is concerned, but it does aid in reinforcing what has become a pattern of underachievement when the Flyers are knocking on the doorstep for long-term inclusion in the Top 25.
So, the Flyers have to pick up the pieces and battle on. Dayton has one of its most important weeks coming up – a game at home against Davidson on Tuesday night and a visit from George Washington this Friday (?) evening. Remain calm, remain LOWD.