Over the last five or so years, it is not hyperbole to say that Dayton vs. VCU has become the A10’s marquee match-up. Without throwing disrespect to URI, Richmond, Davidson, etc., the two programs have seen the most success, the most tournament wins/appearances, and have featured some of the best A10 players of the last decade. Only one season since VCU joined the A10 has featured neither team in the top four, and it has seemingly felt like every time UD and VCU take the floor, something is on the line. On Tuesday evening what happened to be on the line was Dayton’s undefeated conference record and VCU’s hope of getting an at-large bid. That is why, given the historical precedence, burying VCU’s postseason at-large hopes in the ground and stepping over the body felt just that much more enjoyable. The Rams of Richmond will only be looking ahead to steal a bid in Brooklyn now, and they have the Flyers to thank for their demise.
Truth be told, I did not find myself all that worried about the outcome of the game throughout the first half. I was, of course, justified by the end of the game since the Flyers never trailed again after falling behind 7-6 early. UD jumped out to a 6-0 lead on a pair of long balls, but looked out of sorts and disorganized in the first 12 minutes, leading to 5 turnovers, particularly a few head-scratchers from Obi, who took some time to settle into the game.
The early story line of the evening was the absence of VCU guard, Marcus Evans, who took the floor for warm-ups but then never took said warm-ups off, and never had the look of a guy who would be entering the game. In his stead, Freshman guard Bones Hyland picked up the majority of the slack, going off for 13 points in the first frame on his way to a spectacular game, finishing with 18 before fouling out late. The problem of course for VCU was that no one else was particularly interested or capable of carrying the rest of the load offensively. When the Rams missed, they missed badly, and the difference in the first half was their 7-for-17 mark from 2pt range, compared to UD’s customary efficiency at 8-for-15. It also helped that Jalen Crutcher was seemingly getting buckets to fall when he really set his mind to it. With that in mind, it’s time to talk about this man among the best floor generals that have ever taken classes at old U of D, if you aren’t already.
I digress. Flyers led at the break, and there was little cause for concern.
I am always one to give credit where it’s due in my recaps, and VCU’s approach to defending Obi is likely going to serve as the blueprint for coaching staffs moving forward into March when they gameplan for UD. The Player of the Year candidate finished with three points in the first frame, and his 12 points marked the lowest total in the A10 season to date. Every time Obi touched the ball in the paint, he was met with a physical body, and then quickly doubled. He can expect to see much more of that down the stretch.
— The Real Mike Kidd (@MikeKiddWho) February 19, 2020
While UD continued to absorb VCU’s advances and then provide an adequate counter-punch to restore the lead on multiple occasions, the story of the second half was sophomore junkyard dog, Dwayne Cohill. DC checked into the game with just over 12 minutes remaining, and the game in a precarious position as UD led by four. Over the final stretch of the game, DC contributed 4 rebounds (two on the offensive side), a crucial three ball to extend the UD lead, a stout defensive approach on the perimeter, and two fouls drawn to get to the line. His efforts culminated in a trip to the charity stripe with under 30 seconds remaining and the Flyers leading by three, where he proceeded to wink at the camera, drain both, and show 7000 people dressed for a funeral in Richmond that he did indeed have the CHEST for the big moment. Any team who makes a run in March has a guy off the bench willing to do the dirty work, and Dwayne is that guy for the Flyers. If I know anything about Dayton, OH, it’s that this basketball community fully appreciates a guy like Dwayne, considering he went from being benched a few games back, to getting shots up on The Arena floor after said game, to stepping up and delivering two free throws to ice the game in the toughest opposing venue in the conference. The Dwayne Game it shall be dubbed.
pretty good birthday gift if you ask me pic.twitter.com/dEqMy0BlMy
— paco (@AllaireMatt) February 19, 2020
Maintaining our commitment to being a blog by the fans, for the fans, our BBR on-site correspondent, Matt Paul @mattpaul2names, provided his thoughts from a comfy folding chair in the Siegel Center.
One of the top 3 Flyers games I’ve been to live, up there with the Boise game and the A10 clincher against VCU in 2017. Dayton took everything VCU could throw at them and still pulled it out. Dwayne was the player of the game, hitting that run-stopping 3-ball, and on the next possession, took down a long defensive rebound that it looked like three VCU players had a better shot at grabbing. That board sucked the life straight out of the place and it never really came back to that level, not to mention his defensive effort and free throws to ice it.
It is fun to crack on the cafenasium because it gets their fanbase all hot and bothered, but there really isn’t a bad seat in the place. I was about as far off the court as you could be, and I was only 25 rows from the floor. Additionally, I have nothing but love for the VCU fans I encountered, because they gave it right back. They’ve got a handful of tweeters who shouldn’t be allowed any sort of public platform for anything, (and tarnish the perception of the holistic fan base) but their fans were into it, were nothing but goodhearted and cordial, and a few even stopped to tell me how Dayton was one of the best teams they’ve ever seen. Wasn’t UD Arena #, but probably the loudest visiting arena I’ve been too, and there’s only so much you can do with 4000 less people. -Matt Paul
A most concise recap indeed.
However, I would be remiss if I did not use the last few words to pontificate on the blueprint for beating the Dayton Flyers. If this team is going to lose a heartbreaker in March, you can bet your ass that game will look a lot like the one you saw Tuesday night in Richmond. The difference being? The team UD plays in the tournament will likely be a lot better than VCU, and will certainly be more capable on the offensive side. VCU had no offensive run to speak of larger than seven on the night, and failed to fully capitalize on a staggering advantage on the offensive boards, which we have seen, night-in and night-out, against this version of the Dayton Flyers. It’s not saying anything new that this team MUST clean up the effort on the boards, or it will be the last chapter in the storybook of this season.
With that said, this was another example that getting to 18-0 isn’t pretty, and doesn’t have to be. If we’re all agreeing UD failed to improve on the rebounding front, we can also agree they made leaps and bounds in their ability to draw contact, and get to the line. It has long been noted that VCU uses an overly aggressive approach to playing defense, and the best way to counteract that is by drawing fouls and getting to the line with unrelenting consistency. The easy thing to say is that UD only scored 2 FGs in the last 8 minutes of the game, but the basketball-knower would say that’s because they didn’t need to. Down the stretch, and with Santos-Silva playing with four fouls, the gameplan was clearly to get the ball into the paint, and draw contact, which is exactly what happened. Winning at the free throw line counts just the same as any other win, even if it is not aesthetically pleasing to you. I applauded UD’s ability to give VCU a healthy dose of Obi in crunch time, since, you know, he’s the best player in the country right now.
Writing the recap after beating VCU is one of my favorite things to do on this site, and it was not less enjoyable this time around. Three more wins (without a URI loss) will see UD clinch the A10 conference title on our own home floor next Friday night vs. Davidson, and the chances Dayton runs the table to 18-0 has increased to 42% as of this writing. While I mentioned that this win feels just a little bit better than any of the others in conference play, in the end, there’s now just one less thing to do.
Lastly, don’t forget to do your patriotic duty and check out the officially licensed tees and hoodies over at Breaking T. Yes, I swear, we put in the work to get them licensed by UD. However, it has come to our attention the Dayton MBB twitter account is hiding our replies any time we post these shirts in their mentions, so we promise to be more aggressive in posting these shirts everywhere. Buy one and help us pay for this godforsaken site.
Wear red, stay LOWD.