By: Roberto De La Rosa-Finch – Assistant Online Editor
The men’s basketball team drained it from way downtown Dayton to blowout the Saint Louis Billikens, 67-46, Sunday afternoon. Improving to 15-4 overall and 6-1 against in-conference foes, the Flyers demonstrated why they are atop A10 standings.
Despite being last in almost every conference statistic along with having the worst record in the conference, Saint Louis emerged with more intensity and firepower than the Flyers early in the first half.
Point blank shots and layups in the paint weren’t falling for Dayton early on. But by creating turnovers, playing on-ball defense and staying out of foul trouble, the Flyers prevented the Billikens from going on a deep scoring run.
The turning point came after head coach Archie Miller called a timeout and adjusted the offensive strategy to shooting from behind the arc.
That’s when guards Scoochie Smith and John Crosby began to heat up. Back-to-back threes from Smith and another from Crosby got UD Arena on their feet and the momentum on the Flyers side. Smith and Crosby would account for all made three-pointers in the first half.
Additionally, Kendall Pollard’s ability to grind down in the paint caused problems for Saint Louis’ frontcourt. Reggie Agbeko, who has six multiple ten rebound performances this season, and starting forward Elliott Welmer aided Pollard’s numerous trips to the foul line where he would score five of his total nine points of the game.
Saint Louis’ inability to create any offense in the half court after a switch in momentum, compiled with a (-4) turnover margin, put the Flyers up by thirteen at the end of the first, 31-18.
Flyers’ season leading scorer, Charles Cooke, struggled in the first 20 minutes but still managed to get teammates involved, racking up a team high four assists. Shooting 1-6 from the floor, he focused on other aspects on the court by grabbing five boards, a steal and making smart decisions with the basketball.
But the second half was a different story. When asked on how he managed to turn things around Cooke surmised that he, “Just stay[ed] aggressive and in attack mode, that’s it.”
He would find his groove on back-to-back threes from opposite corners of the court to open the floodgates finishing with 15 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and only one turnover.
Hitting on all cylinders, Dayton had a 28 point lead nine minutes into the second half. On both sides Saint Louis could not find an answer to the Flyers 41.7% 3FG or their active defense.
Granted that the Billikens are last in A10 standings, the Flyers did not come out of the gate with high energy. This is a recurrent theme for their season, as Dayton scores 165 more points in the second half than in the first.
When asked if a slow start will become a problem come tournament time, Smith replied, “Nah, not at all. Some teams just start off better, but we pulled together after the first period. So, it wasn’t too bad.”
The Flyers, who have won eight out of their last ten games, will take the A10’s number one scoring defense in a face-off against the VCU Rams this Friday, January 27, at the Siegel Center.
Head Coach Archie Miller knows his team has to prepare as the Rams have the second best scoring defense in the A10, declaring that “We’re going to expect their best.”
Photo by Erik Schelkun/Dayton Athletics