Sophomore forward Koby Brea (No. 4, white jersey) finished 4-5 from three and finished with 12 points in the Flyers’ 38-point win on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Keegan Gupta, Flyer News.
Peter Burtnett | Sports Editor
Jumping out to a quick lead, the Dayton Flyers men’s basketball team never looked back in a 79-41 win over the Northern Illinois Huskies Saturday afternoon at UD Arena.
The Flyers roared out to a quick start, with the first points of the game coming on a reverberating dunk by freshman forward DaRon Holmes II. A fellow freshman, guard Malachi Smith, pickpocketed a defender at halfcourt and scored an easy fastbreak layup to give the Flyers a 9-0 lead and force NIU to use a timeout just two-and-a-half minutes into the game.
“I thought today, our defense set the tone,” Flyers head coach Anthony Grant said. “I thought the start of the game, the guys did a great job of imposing their will, (and) we were able to build a lead.”
Holmes II stepped up with back-to-back three-point plays after being fouled on layups, the second of which came after his own offensive rebound. With their first missed field goal five minutes into the game, UD continued to push ahead and led 21-6 at the media timeout with 10:57 remaining in the first half.
NIU benefitted from a couple of minor lapses by Dayton on defense, cutting the deficit from 18 points down to 24-11 at the media timeout with 7:56 left in the half.
“Some of it was was mistakes on our part, live-ball turnovers, transition defense,” Grant said. “I think they got a three off a mistake in the press got in the corner that allowed them to go on the run. But that’s a part of a basketball. You got to be able to answer your opponent’s runs with runs of your own, and I thought we were able to sustain some runs for pretty long stretches today, that kind of overwhelmed them.”
As the Huskies began to make a push back into the game, the Flyers responded with big plays on three of four possessions. First, sophomore forward R.J. Blakney drove through the lane for a one-handed dunk that electrified the UD Arena crowd.
On whether Blakney is in the conversation for best dunker on the team, redshirt junior guard Elijah Weaver said,” Most definitely.”
“I never really say R.J. just because I know R.J. wouldn’t say himself,” Weaver said. “Now, yes, R.J. or Zimi (Nwokeji). I haven’t seen him (dunk) yet, but Zimi got bounce.”
Then, after a Huskies travel, sophomore forward Toumani Camara grabbed an offensive rebound and was eventually found for a three-pointer from the top of the key. After field goal by NIU, sophomore guard Kobe Elvis found Holmes II on a lob to put the Flyers up 35-18 with 3:37 left in the half and send a raucous roar through the arena.
When asked if he should be in the “best dunker” conversation as well, Holmes said he has “some nice dunks.”
“That’s where most of my points come from right now, but yeah, I think I can get up there. When I get a dunk like that, it just makes me feel kind of special, you know, when the crowd’s loud like that, it just helps out even more it just, it’s wild. It’s a great experience to have.”
The Flyers finished the first half strong, maintaining their comfortable lead to go into halftime up 41-22. In the first half, UD shot 67 percent from the field, and led in scoring by Holmes II (12 points) and Smith (8).
Offense was difficult to come by in the first four minutes of the second half, but a dunk by Holmes II and ball movement leading to a three by Smith helped the Flyers push ahead 46-25 with 15:56 left in the game.
The slow offensive start was solved for the Flyers, in most part due to sophomore guard Koby Brea, who knocked down 3 three-pointers over a five-minute span. Brea was joined by Weaver, who made a three to push the UD advantage to 60-33 with 10:39 remaining. Brea finished 4-5 on threes.
“That’s 80 percent from three, so he did that well,” Grant said with a laugh. “Koby is a heck of a shooter… I think his teammates and his coaches have a lot of confidence in his ability to shoot the basketball. So when he’s open, we want him to shoot the ball, and he took advantage of those opportunities today.
Weaver continued where he left off by going on a 9-0 run individually after a layup by sophomore center Moulaye Sissoko. After the center grabbed an offensive rebound, he found Weaver, who was fouled on a layup and converted the three-point play. On the next possession, Weaver knocked down a floater and was fouled again, making that free throw to stretch the lead to 25.
“I was seeing lanes to attack. Just the opportunity to attack take full advantage of my skill set and just put pressure on the defense.”
Then, to reach 16 points in the game, Weaver drilled a three. After that, sophomore forward Mustapha Amzil made a layup to cap a 13-1 run and give the Flyers an insurmountable 73-34 lead with 7:48 left in the game.
Over the final eight minutes, the Flyers saw out a 79-41 win. Weaver led the team with 16 points, followed closely by Holmes II (14), Brea (12) and Smith (11). The team finished 31-56 from the field (55.4 percent) and outrebounded the Huskies 43-25.
Freshmen Lynn Greer III and Kaleb Washington, and redshirt sophomores Zimi Nwokeji and Moulaye Sissoko were able to get some more playing time and finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds combined.
“It just shows how deep we are,” Weaver said. “Like I said earlier, anybody can come in and give us good minutes at any time. So those guys stepping in, Caleb hasn’t played a whole lot this season. He was able to come in you see how he scored, and Lynn, he came in and gave us big minutes. So it just shows how deep we are.”
The only slight problem for the Flyers was 17 turnovers, which Grant said the team has “growing to do.”
“We still have that that issue of taking care of the basketball, you know, showed up again today… Our ability to learn how to play fast, but while also playing smart and under control, so we got some growing that we need to do… we got to find a level of consistency there.”
With the win, the Flyers improve to 6-3 and travel back on the road to face SMU on Dec. 8 at 8 p.m.
“We gotta go in there and just focus on us and the job at hand,” Weaver said. “We can’t go in there and be like, ‘Oh, this crowd is a big crowd. Oh we got SMU’… we got to just stay even-keeled, stay ourselves.”