Dayton’s ‘small ball seven’ yet to be beat, 3-0 in A-10

_MG_8971W

By: Keith Raad – Sports Editor

Usually, the number 666 is a bad thing.

But numbers like 6 feet 6 inches to six available scholarship players to six wins in a row have Flyer fans buzzing.

Head coach Archie Miller’s coaching magic may be the most potent it’s ever been as Dayton’s 3-0 Atlantic 10 Conference start is the best in over a decade. The dangerous mirage of “small ball” that Dayton brings to the table has fooled opponents since Dec. 20.

After losing juniors Devon Scott and Jalen Robinson to expulsion, combined with the injury loss of graduate student Ryan Bass, Dayton’s offense has done nothing but impress red and blue fans and crush the doubters.

Highlighted in Dayton’s previous conference game against Fordham, the first half in Rose Hill Gymnasium froze the Gem City shooters limiting the offense to 42 percent shooting from the field and a quiet 2-11 from long range. The first half was exactly a microcosm of the 2014-15 season: an “OK” first half with a full roster that was good enough to get by. In the second half,the Flyers rained in five threes in five attempts and shot a season-best 83 percent from the field. It was the second-best shooting half of the 106 seasons of Dayton basketball.

A 51-point second half pushed Dayton past Fordham 76-58. The Flyers moved to 13-2, the best record since Brian Gregory’s 2008-09 team began 14-2.

The Flyers’ in-house team mantra of “True Team” has never rung truer. Three games into conference play, Dayton shares a tie for most points-per-game with 78.3, surrendering a conference-best 58 points-per-game. Consistency is something the short Flyer bench grew into through necessity.

“We’ve been on the floor together a lot recently,” Miller said. “With ball movement, bodies moving on defense, there’s a lot of connection there with our team.”

In the three wins, at least four players tallied double-digit points. Redshirt senior captain Jordan Sibert has averaged 19.2 points per game in Dayton’s last five contests, while junior Dyshawn Pierre is averaging 16.6 points per game in his last five, six more than his average in the first 10 games.

Off the bench, first year Darrell Davis has shot 17-19 percent from three point range in his last six games. The Detroit native’s three-point percentage of 78 percent in conference is good for best in the A-10. His 61 percent overall percentage does not qualify Davis yet, due to his number of attempts per game.

Against St. Bonaventure University Thursday, junior walk-on Bobby Wehrli tied his season total of points in one game. Wehrli was 3-4 from long range for nine points in the route.

Youssou Ndoye, the 7-foot center for St. Bonaventure, provided the toughest test in the paint the Flyers are scheduled to face in the conference. The height difference alone was the pregame storyline.

“When you face a big like that, it doesn’t matter about his size, bigs are bigs,” Miller said. “But if you can deny him the ball in the paint, if you can keep it out of the paint, that’s the key.”

Ndoye scored only eight points on four attempts from the field.

With a short bench, the concern moving forward is foul trouble. However, in the last five games, sophomore forward Kendall Pollard is the only Flyer to foul out of a game. Sibert and sophomore guard Kyle Davis fouled out of games early in the non-conference schedule. Miller and his staff worry about that, but continuing to build chemistry knocks foul trouble out of the conversation.

“If you can get really, really good at what you do, you don’t have to worry about what other teams are going to do against you,” Miller said. “There’s always going to be hiccups and bumps but our guys believe in each other and have great chemistry.”

Dayton hosts La Salle University Wednesday and Saint Louis University Saturday at UD Arena. The teams are a combined 1-5 through their first six conference games.