Steve Miller – Sports Editor
Returning to a student-packed UD Arena, the Flyers used a dynamic scoring attack to top the Richmond Spiders, who were previously 5-0 in Atlantic 10 play, 75-59. Dayton used a 10-2 run to push their lead to 11 points at the half and ran away with the win after they overcame a Spider comeback in the second.
Five Flyers scored in double digits, led by senior guard Charles Cooke, who tallied 17 points and grabbed four rebounds.
The Spiders notched the first points of the game and controlled the tempo though the first 10 minutes. But once the Dayton gained a lead with 8:41 to play in the half, the Flyer offense did not relinquish control.
Junior guard Darrell Davis hit a key three-pointer with just over eight minutes to go. Less than two minutes later, he and senior guard Scoochie Smith added back-to-back three’s. By the end of the first half, Dayton was shooting at a 57-percent clip from the field and had hit half of their three-point attempts.
“Toughness, dedication and playing together as a team,” Davis attributed the coming together at the end of the half. “We wanted to get kills in the game. We wanted to see how many times we could stop them in a row, and we did that.”
During that run, sophomore forward Ryan Mikesell won a battle on the inside by making a strong layup and later finished on a statement steal-and-score to put Dayton up 11. He had nine points at the half and finished the game with 11, looking a lot like the big man the team wants to make him.
“Ryan Mikesell was terrific tonight,” head coach Archie Miller said in the postgame press conference. “I think you’ve seen [Mikesell] kind of grow up a little bit.”
Halftime may have been the only thing keeping the Flyers from running away with the game then and there.
After a slow start to the second half, Dayton held a 45-31 lead when their offense fizzled. Richmond proceeded on a 14-0 run to tie it at 45 with just under 12 minutes to play. Spider forward TJ Cline spearheaded the comeback along with guard Khwan Fore, who twice flushed emphatic dunks in front of a whiteout version of the Red Scare.
“I think everyone got a chance to see two of the best players in our conference in Cline and ShawnDre’ Jones,” Miller said. “I think TJ Cline is one of the more impressive and harder guys we’ve ever covered.”
While Cline finished with a game-high 21 points, UD held Jones to just one point on 0-for-9 shooting from the floor.
“Maybe it wasn’t his night,” Miller said. “They were two-for-20 from three. If we played them tomorrow, sixteen of those could go in.”
“They’re difficult to guard,” Miller said. “And like I said, TJ Cline, you’re not going to find a guy harder to defend in terms of the way they use him.”
After Richmond had tied it, things started to fall back into place for UD on their home court.
Sophomore forward Xeyrius Williams made a jumper with just over nine minutes to play, re-invigorating Dayton’s offense.
With a two-point lead and 6:27 to go, senior forward Kendall Pollard was whistled for his fourth foul. Yet the Flyers pushed on.
“It’s not really surprising. We pretty much got to figure it out as the game goes on, it wasn’t really Kendall’s night,” Miller said. “I thought Xeyrius did an excellent job in the minutes that he played especially blocking shots, getting some rebounds, and then he had a couple key stick-backs and breakaways.”
Always a stalwart in UD’s attack, Scoochie Smith ended the game with 15 points, five rebounds and two steals.
“Everybody made plays today, and we put up 75 points,” Smith said after the game. “We started to get stops and we started to make shots. [After] we let up about 12 points we started to get stops. So credit to our defense.”
Dayton’s defense ended the day with nine steals, two blocks and 14 turnovers. They held Richmond to 42-percent shooting for the game.
Senior guard Kyle Davis was again absent from the lineup as he is still nursing an ankle sprain. “I don’t see him playing on Sunday,” Miller said. “We need him. [It’s] very difficult to look out there and not have him out there on the floor.”
Now 5-1 in conference, Dayton moves into a tie with La Salle for the Atlantic 10 lead. Richmond, also 5-1, rounds out the top.
On Sunday, the Flyers return to their home floor to take on Saint Louis, who is currently 1-5 and in last place in the conference. But the Flyers won’t look past their foe.
“Being that it’s at our place and what not, I think a lot of people are going to say what they may say,” Miller said. “But I’m going to tell you, we better be ready to go. They just beat George Mason last weekend on the road and I watched them play Duquesne all the way until the last minute. Every game is important and they all are the same in our mind.”
Tip-off is slated for 2 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
Photos by Chris Turley – Staff Photographer