By: Roberto Dela Rosa-Finch – Assistant Online Editor
The Flyers, improving to 24-5 (15-2), clinched the Atlantic 10 Conference with a win against the VCU Rams in a high intensity and gritty matchup yesterday evening, 79-72.
Senior night began with big smiles on the seniors at half-court. Raising their framed jerseys high above their heads as UD Arena roared, guards Kyle Davis, Scoochie Smith and Charles Cooke and forward Kendall Pollard, showed off their pearly whites in admiration of Flyer Faithful.
After grabbing a rebound off a missed go-ahead three point attempt by JeQuan Lewis and drawing a foul with 16.2 left in the second half, Davis’ big grin emerged again at half-court. He made both free throws late to put Dayton up 76-72.
Pollard and Smith repeated Davis’ actions proceeding failed Rams’ possessions to seal the win against VCU from the foul line. The Flyers, now A-10 champions, extended their win streak to nine and their home record to 15-1.
Although Dayton led from start to finish, VCU’s relentlessness made that statistic feel irrelevant.
Wednesday’s game, much like the game on Jan. 27, in Richmond, Virginia, revolved heavily around boards, turnovers, and second chance points. Just when the Flyers looked like they were going to put their foot on VCU’s neck, the Rams would keep their hope alive with an offensive rebound or a put-back layup. Thus, keeping the game within arm’s reach.
The Rams 16 offensive rebounds to the Flyers six, in addition to a +13 differential in second chance points, VCU would not let up.
“We just had to keep fighting,” Smith said. “I told the team we’re just going through adversity right now, we just [had] to keep fighting.” And that they did.
Although the Flyers became a little flustered due to VCU’s second half adjustments, which included their noteworthy full court press and three-two zone, Dayton’s seniors kept them on top.
Smith and Cooke had near identical numbers, notching up 20 points, four rebounds and at least five assists in 37 minutes.
The frontcourt, specifically Pollard and Josh Cunningham, who managed to fill the stat sheet but more importantly did the dirty work in containing Mo Alie-Cox, was crucial in the Flyers’ victory.
“Josh was terrific for us,” Smith said. “We knew having him back for the second game would be good for us cause Mo Alie-Cox and Tillman are rebounding machines, so having Josh and Kendall down there at the same time was amazing for us.”
This win established this Flyers team’s ability to win in a high intensity atmosphere, which is pivotal for the upcoming NCAA tournament. Dayton will head to Washington, D.C. to play their last game of the regular season against George Washington on March 4.
They’ve already locked up the one-seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, and will play their first game of that weekend on March 10.
Photo Courtesy of Andrew Wong/Staff Photographer