One of the biggest question marks for Dayton’s men’s basketball coming into this season was depth. The Flyers started the campaign with only nine eligible scholarship players on the roster, and it was cut down to eight after the decision was made for freshman forward Frankie Policelli to redshirt this season.
A 3-0 start has done a lot to quiet these concerns, especially after strong bench play helped Dayton to a 91-80 win over Purdue Fort Wayne on Friday night.
“Last year, we really weren’t a loaded team off the bench,” junior guard Trey Landers said. “Seeing those guys come in and give us quality minutes helps us a lot. We’ve got a lot of guys who can do a lot of things.”
Junior guard Jhery Matos is a transfer from Monroe College and is getting his first taste of division one basketball. He struggled in the first two games of the season but broke out in a major way on Friday night.
Matos gave the Flyers a quality all-around game, notching four assists, two steals, and seven points on only five shots.
“Jhery is a great all-around player,” redshirt senior forward Josh Cunningham said. “He really gets after it on the defensive end.”
Matos didn’t fill up the points column on the stat sheet, but he definitely made an impression on the Flyer Faithful. Along with a solid defensive performance, Matos dazzled the crowd with an array of fancy passes, highlighted by a no-look behind-the-back assist to Landers.
“I thought [Matos] did a good job of being physical without fouling,” head coach Anthony Grant said. “He definitely gave us a huge lift.”
Another new addition, freshman guard Dwayne Cohill was known for his scoring in high school but has been able to help the Flyers in a variety of ways. His impact on the game was immense, indicated by his plus 23 plus-minus, the highest in the game.
“I thought [Cohill] was big for us,” Grant said. “He came in and gave us some extended minutes that helped us sustain and build the lead.”
After hip surgery kept him out of the entire 2017-18 season, redshirt junior Ryan Mikesell is finally back. His health is still a concern, as a foot injury has been giving him issues leading to a minutes restriction against Purdue Fort Wayne.
Despite that, Mikesell made the most of his time, giving the Flyers 10 vital points and 5 rebounds in only 13 minutes.
“He gave us a big time boost in the second half,” Grant said. “He’s on a minutes restriction, but the time he gave us really helped.”
To put things in perspective, the Flyers’ bench mob was a combined plus-48 for the game, while the starters were only plus-seven. The sheer lack of players is still a concern for Dayton, as one injury could put them in real trouble; however, if they can get this much production from the bench on a nightly basis, the Flyers will be in cruise control.
Dayton’s next game will be against Butler in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. You can watch them in action on ESPN News on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
Photo Courtesy of Griffin Quinn.