Leading by two with 55 seconds remaining, the University of Dayton men’s basketball team found itself in a scenario it has regularly come out of on the wrong side this season.
Behind 23 points from redshirt senior guard Kevin Dillard, Dayton got a win it needed in defeating St. Joseph’s University 60-54 on Wednesday, Feb. 6, at UD Arena.
“I think we really had a group of guys that played with great pride and humility, played with some passion,” head coach Archie Miller said. “I thought the Arena won the game for us in the last five minutes. As we move forward, those three things have to be in check.”
Dillard scored the final nine points for Dayton in the final two minutes and grabbed his only rebound of the game with 22 seconds left off a missed three to help seal the game. He said Miller talked to him on Tuesday in practice.
“Archie pulled me and [senior forward Josh Benson] in and told us this is our last 33 days guaranteed and we have to start to step up,” Dillard said. “We just have to start taking more accountability as seniors and we just have to take pride in playing for one another.
Heading into Wednesday, Dayton was 1-6 this season in games decided by six points or fewer. Dayton’s five losses in Atlantic 10 play were all against teams in the top six in the conference standings, while its two wins were among the bottom three. SJU came into the game eighth after being picked as the preseason conference favorite by the coaches and media.
Freshman forward Devon Scott started for the first time in his career. He recorded two steals in the first half, but did not score in 17 minutes of action. However, Miller said his role was to just be himself.
“Play physical, be a great teammate, show a little energy,” Miller said. “He didn’t score a basket, but his 17 minutes were good minutes for us.”
Miller said he especially liked the way Scott matched up against the size of Saint Joseph’s early in the game.
“He got in there and banged on both ends of the floor, and in particular in the first five minutes of the game, unlike some others where they throw the ball inside and concede the layup, he didn’t concede. I thought that set the tone for us.”
SJU junior forward CJ Aiken, the A-10’s leading shot blocker, recorded two more and was held to his season average of 11 points. Scott said Aiken, along with all of SJU’s forwards were tough to go against.
“He’s a great rebounder, attacks the rim and does everything,” Scott said. “He won some and I won, but at the end of the day, we just needed to get the W.”
Early in the second half, freshman forward Dyshawn Pierre grabbed a rebound from his knees off a missed 3-pointer by Dillard and never stood up in banking a shot off the glass and in. Pierre said the play was something you cannot prepare for.
“That has to be the first one in a game for sure,” Pierre said. “The ball was there and rolling around and I just tried to put it in the basket and luckily it went in.”
Coming off a season-high 29-point loss to Saint Louis University on Saturday, Feb. 2, Miller said the team needed a refresher to remind themselves about
“I can’t really talk a whole lot about it,” Miller said. “At the end of the day, there’s some things that stay in house, but there were a lot of individual meetings.
“We didn’t change the way we practice, but I will say our staff did a heck of a job getting these guys to realize what a special place they play at, how fortune they are to be at a place they’re at, and you have to play with great pride to represent those two things…The end of the game in that locker room was the first time in a long time I’ve seen a group like that excited about the game.”
Junior forward Devin Oliver snapped an eight-game streak and a 0-for-9 skid without a 3-pointer in the first half and had a game-high 12 rebounds.
Sophomore forward Alex Gavrilovic was in sweats and did not play, and freshman guard Khari Price also missed a second straight game while still recovering from a thigh injury.
Dayton returns to UD Arena on Saturday, Feb. 9, to host Temple University at 11 a.m.