By: Steve Miller – Sports Editor
Feeding off a 10-0 run early in the first half, the Dayton men’s basketball team opened up a 19-point halftime lead and ended up defeating the Duquesne Dukes 90-53 in front of a sellout crowd at UD Arena on Saturday afternoon.
The Flyers improved to 17-5 overall and 8-2 in the Atlantic 10, momentarily putting them in sole possession of first place, prior to VCU’s late afternoon game.
Ten different Flyers, including freshman Trey Landers, scored in the game. Senior forward Kendall Pollard finished with 16 points and five rebounds, going six-for-six on field goal attempts.
“The last two games we’ve played, I feel like we’ve been playing hard and playing together,” Pollard said after the game. “I think we had 30 assists tonight. So we’ve been playing together.”
Ball movement was key for the Flyers, who stayed in control of the game from the tip-off to the final buzzer. A key contributor to the assist total was senior guard Kyle Davis. Playing off the bench, Davis finished with 12 points, six rebounds and five assists.
“He’s back into form, he looks himself,” head coach Archie Miller said in the postgame press conference of Davis, who had missed several games this year due to injury. “He just does everything that you ask a guy to do. And he doesn’t care about starting, he doesn’t care about anything but winning. That’s contagious.”
“He [has] allowed other guys to do things on the floor that they wouldn’t be able to do,” Miller continued about Davis. “If you look at his assist-to-turnover ratio in conference, it’s crazy. I mean, I don’t know if I’ve seen an assist-to-turnover ratio from a player like [that]. He was so unselfish with the way he’s playing on both ends of the floor…He’s pretty much been our MVP all year.”
Despite Davis’ performance, he is still playing off the bench. But as Miller stated, that is not so much a knock on the senior guard’s grit as it is an ode to his unrelated teammate Darrell Davis’ hot streak.
Junior guard Darrell Davis scored 13 points over his 26 minutes, going three-for-six from behind the arc.
“Guys get in the lineup [and] they do well,” Miller said. “I don’t think Darrell has done anything to take himself out of the lineup right now. And then when Kyle got hurt, Charles [Cooke] got inserted back in.”
“I think if you watch the game, you wouldn’t know if he started or not,” Miller said of Kyle Davis. “19 minutes, 12 points, six rebounds and five assists. Kyle’s that type of guy that’s gonna allow us to keep getting better.
The 37-point win for the Flyers made the sold-out crowd and Red Scare relative non-factors, but the fans did stay energized throughout the game.
The Red Scare, decked out in beach-themed attire for the midday affair, began chanting “We want Gruden,” as the clock wound down in the second half. They coaxed Miller enough to allow senior walk-on Joey Gruden into the game for the final minute.
Gruden had an opportunity to set the crowd wild when he was open for a three-point attempt from the corner. But the senior airballed his shot, much to the amusement of his teammates.
“I told him to [pass the ball next time],” Pollard said of Gruden’s off-the-mark attempt. “Because he don’t deserve no shot.”
The miss did not drastically damper the Flyers’ score sheet, though.
Dayton knocked down 11 of its 24 three-point attempts, good for a 46-percent mark. They hit 59 percent of their total field goal attempts.
An uncharacteristic low-point for UD was their 50-percent free throw shooting. They were five of 10 on the day.
Next up for the Flyers is Saint Joseph’s, who comes into town for an 8 p.m. game on Tuesday evening. The Hawks are 3-6 in conference this year, and 10-11 overall.
“Saint Joe’s has been about as difficult an opponent for us in our time here as we’ve had,” Miller said. “Coach Martelli does a great job. He works our defense, he works our offense in different ways, he challenges us in unique ways, and they’ve had our number. Our senior class, it’ll be the last time they play them, so to speak, at home so I know we’ll be motivated to go on Tuesday night against a young Saint Joe’s team, but very dangerous.”