Pictured is DaRon Holmes II, Mike Sharavjamts, Mustapha Amzil and Toumani Camara. Photo by by Keegan Gupta, director of photography and digital media.
Jack Batten | Contributing Writer
Two career highs almost weren’t enough for the Flyers.
Toumani Camara led UD with 31 points while Malachi Smith contributed 21 as the Flyers defeated their new conference rival, Loyola Chicago 85-81 in overtime Tuesday. Dayton improved to 15-8 overall and 7-3 in A-10 play.
A DaRon Holmes II dunk with two minutes left in overtime gave Dayton a four point lead that they would not surrender.
Dayton was able to pick up their second straight home win, but not before late game drama at UD Arena. With a three point UD lead, Loyola’s Philip Alston banked in a three pointer to send the game into overtime.
However, that prayer off the glass did not dampen the Flyers’ spirit heading into the extra frame – at least not Camara’s.
“We went into overtime still having a good mentality,” Camara said. “The thought was, Hey, we get to play some more basketball… let’s stay positive and keep playing hard.”
And play hard, they did. Dayton outscored Loyola 13-9 in overtime, including nine made free throws that cemented the win.
Loyola entered the game at 1-7 in A-10 play, good for last in the conference. The Ramblers started the game 5-for-6 from the field and entered halftime shooting 14-for-26 (54%). Dayton matched Loyolas’ efficient shooting and held a 40-34 halftime lead. Camara had 20 of his career best 31 in the first half.
Loyola opened the second half on a 23-9 run, jumping out to an eight point lead, their largest of the game.
Camara, as he did throughout the game, thwarted the Rambler run with five consecutive points, energizing the UD Arena crowd.
The physicality of the game peaked at the 5:51 mark of the second half. Holmes II, still scoreless at this point, drew a hard foul from Loyola’s Tom Welch. This resulted in a scrum under the UD basket, as each player was slapped with a technical foul.
Holmes II made one of his two shots from the line as the UD crowd of 13,407 rose in approval.
The five minutes following the skirmish saw the Flyers outscore the Ramblers 10-2, including seven from Malachi Smith. The sophomore guard poured in 21 points and 8 assists while not turning the ball over once.
Smith tallied a season-high 36 minutes in his fifth game back from injury.
Coach Anthony Grant complimented his hard-nosed guard postgame.
“Malachi played a huge amount of minutes,” Grant said. “Physically, he just battled. That’s who he is. What he gave us defensively was huge… and then on the other end he orchestrated the offense for us all night.”
Holding a six point lead with 41 seconds left, it appeared Dayton was going to hold on for consecutive home wins.
The Flyer faithful were going to have to wait a little longer to see a win, however. Loyola hit two of its 13 threes, including Alstons’ last second bank shot, to add five minutes to the clock.
Eventually, Daytons’ size overpowered Loyola and was able to escape with the four point lead.
Dayton attempted 31 free throws to just 12 from Loyola. Kobe Elvis and Mustapha Amzil combined for 24 points and 6-for-6 from the line to help put away the pesky Ramblers.
Grant firmly believes that Loyola is much better than their 1-8 conference record.
“When I watch Loyola play, they really are in just about every game,” Grant said. “They are very well coached, as well. They are a team that is going to make some noise in this league.”
Loyolas’ scoring was paced by Alston with 22 and Braden Norris, who finished with 14 points and a team high 7 rebounds.
The Ramblers spent the last nine seasons in the Missouri Valley Conference before joining the A-10 this year. Tuesday was the first meeting between the two teams since the 1992-93 season when the schools were members of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference.
Dayton will travel to Saint Bonaventure to take on the Bonnies at 8 p.m. Saturday. The Flyers next home game will be on Feb. 10 when they host Saint Louis.