By: Roberto De La Rosa-Finch – Online Editor
A few days ago, I wrote about the average play the Dayton men’s basketball team was consistently producing this season. I don’t know if they heard me, or — well, who am I kidding? I’m not Stephen A. Smith — but something happened and they sure have begun to turn things around this week.
The Flyers held on to beat Richmond, 87-81, Tuesday night and then absolutely routed the VCU Rams Friday night, 106-79.
Yes. That’s right. A school-record 106 points on the highest-scoring offense in the A-10.
To grasp why these wins from a team that’s still only one game above .500 might be a sign of what’s to come, let’s breakdown the recent high-flying success.
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The Itsy-Bitsy Spider Almost Had Enough Sun Rays
Prior to the offensive showcase that was the VCU game, the Flyers shot a season-best 67 percent from the field in the first half against Richmond. Dayton must’ve heard it from Grant about beginnings and endings because they led by 12 after the first 20 minutes of play and closed the half on a 7-2 run.
Things were clicking, forward Josh Cunningham already had 15 points by halftime and five other players had at least five points. Then the second half began.
After Dayton led by 15, the Spiders went on a 17-4 run to cut it to 59-56 with about 12 minutes left to play. The Flyers would respond with an 8-2 run of their own but Richmond just would not go away.
Just when it looked like the Spiders would have their rain dried up, a put-back by guard Trey Landers, who finished with a career-high 18 points (13 in the second half), a pair of free throws from guard Darrell Davis and a fastbreak dunk by Cunningham sealed the win.
Dayton was glad to see another person besides Davis or Cunningham provide some real offensive production, which was the first real ray of hope for the Flyers during this potential turnaround.
Landers was not only providing some consistency with his fourth double-digit game out of seven at the time, but he exhibited energy, grit and tenacity.
Still, Dayton had a lead and gave it up, again.
They shot lights out in the first half but couldn’t buy a three in the second (2-8 from behind-the-arc) and definitely didn’t begin the half with energy.
Yes, basketball is game of runs but, they won by six when it looked like they could’ve won by 26.
Dayton was again lacking the ability to step on people’s necks when they’re winning.
Nevertheless, the Flyers soared back home before the winter storm hoping not to get rammed too hard by VCU — and oh man, was it the opposite.
The Film Session Will Probably Be Really Short For This One
This was just really, really bad. I was taking bets on Twitter that we’d score 100 points midway thru the second half.
The Rams looked like they came off of two back-to-backs on a road trip that had them travel across the country.
The team that won six out of their last seven, on a two-game winning streak, and in the top five in scoring, rebounding, steals, three-pointers made and three-point field percentage simply just looked tired.
Dayton didn’t care one bit and exploited the lack of communication VCU exhibited on defense with easy drive-and-kicks that led to layups with no surrounding black jerseys or wide-open threes.
I hate to spit the stats right now but they’re just too phenomenal to leave out. Dayton averages roughly 73 points a game. They had 66 by halftime.
Right above 53 percent from three, 34 assists to 11 turnovers, just under 63 percent from the field — it just didn’t any make sense.
But the explosive offense isn’t even the biggest story out of this. Dayton has now won consecutive games for the first time this season.
Cleared For Takeoff?
It’s now acceptable to play some summer 2015 Drake in the Flyers locker room.
Yea the percentages are pretty and the stat sheet could be framed but whether Dayton won by 1 or 100, it was one night. Coach Anthony Grant seems to agree.
“I think we have to keep it in perspective man, we won one game tonight,” Grant said. “You know, that’s all we did, we won one game.”
What should be extracted from the excellent play is the first showing of consistency, an emerging third and maybe fourth contributor, in Landers and guard Jordan Davis, and lastly, pressure.
Dayton finally showed that they can exert the vigor needed to win for an entire game.
“I think the energy — how we started the game really set the tempo and we just took off from there,” J. Davis said.
They took off and, more importantly, kept with it.
“We know sometimes we get down and not play hard so, we just wanted to come from the jump and play hard and stick through it the whole game,” J. Davis said.
Jordan Davis stepped up and set the tone early with 13 points with nine of them coming from the Montgomery County Jail. Landers kept the tone throughout, picking up from where he left off in Virginia.
“He’s (Landers) great,” Grant said. “Don’t know what his numbers were tonight but just the energy and effort that he played with … we feed off his voice, we feed off his energy.”
Wait a second … his coach doesn’t even know his numbers? Well, now that I think about it, I never remember Landers’ numbers after the game either.
But I always remember him screaming after an and-one or fighting for a rebound. And this seems like vital to the Flyers success.
“With every day that goes by he is embracing that role for us and understanding just how important that role for us is,” Grant said.
Now that the Flyers have shown a small amount of stability and smacked the Rams silly, the fans are going to be expecting more of this. It’s up to the squad to keep that exertion and zest at a high.
“That’s what this team hopefully is building an understanding of that (winning back-to-back games). What’s involved in that and how we gotta go about doing that. I think if we can continue to do that, I feel like this team still has a lot of room to for improvement … ” Grant said.
“We’ll enjoy this one tonight and then it’s back to work to make sure we can enjoy this more often.”
Classes begin after Martin Luther King Day, so the Flyers won’t be playing until Wednesday against Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia. After that they’ll return to UD Arena Jan. 20 to take on Rhode Island.
Photo Courtesy of Griffin Quinn/Staff Photographer