By: Daniel Massa – Sports Editor
BROOKLYN – Despite a ferocious late comeback, the Dayton men’s basketball team fell to the Saint Joseph’s Hawks 82-79 on Saturday afternoon in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
Dayton (25-7) led the Hawks (26-7) 24-18 with 6:29 remaining in the first half, but SJU went on a 12-0 run immediately after, grabbing a lead they would not relinquish for the rest of the contest.
But that does not mean the rest of the game was easy for the Hawks, as Dayton had one final charge in the final minute.
The Flyers trailed 78-66 with 54 seconds to go after two free throws by Hawks junior forward DeAndre’ Bembry, the conference’s Player of the Year award winner.
A 3-pointer from Flyers senior forward Dyshawn Pierre just three seconds later cut UD’s deficit to single digits. After that, a staunch Dayton full-court press forced three SJU turnovers in their next four possessions.
A driving layup from junior forward Kendall Pollard brought the score to 82-77 with 12 seconds left. Pollard was fouled on the shot, but missed the free throw. However, a scramble ensued to secure the rebound, and the ball last touched SJU’s Shavar Newkirk before going out of bounds.
So, the Flyers had a chance to make it a one-possession game in the final seconds, but junior guard Kyle Davis’s layup was blocked out of bounds with 1.9 seconds to go. Pierre hit a layup as time expired on the game and the Flyers’ Atlantic 10 Tournament title hopes.
Saint Joseph’s senior forward Isaiah Miles, the winner of the conference’s Chris Daniels Most Improved Player award, led all scorers with 26 points. He was one rebound away from a double-double, and shot seven-of-15 from the field, including three-of-6 from 3-point range.
Pierre led the Flyers with 22 points, while junior guard Scoochie Smith notched his first career double-double with 14 points and 11 assists. Redshirt junior guard Charles Cooke added 13 points and six rebounds, while Pollard had 11 points and five rebounds.
Dayton shot 13-of-36 (36.1 percent) from the field in the first half, but shot much better (17-of-30, 56.7 percent) in the second half to finish the game at 45.5 percent. But the Flyers shot just six-of-21 from 3-point range, and Dayton head coach Archie Miller said he sensed a lack of confidence among his players.
“We’re just going to have to get a little [more] confident shooting the ball,” Miller said after the game. “A couple balls go in, and the game changes.”
The Flyers will learn their NCAA Tournament fate when the bracket is revealed Sunday evening. The selection show will air at 5:30 p.m. on CBS.
Photo: Junior forward Kendall Pollard (#25) hit a layup with 12 seconds remaining to bring Dayton to 82-77 in the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinal game against Saint Joseph’s. Senior forward Dyshawn Pierre made a layup as time expired to make the final score 82-79. Photo by Ron Thaman.