By: Connor Hanson – Staff Writer
The Dayton men’s basketball team enjoyed a strong home win on the afternoon of Dec. 3, downing Winthrop 85-67. A big key to this game for the Flyers was the long awaited return of senior Kendall Pollard, who scored 12 points along with five rebounds in 18 minutes of play.
Pollard wouldn’t be the only player to score in double digits as fellow seniors Charles Cooke, Scoochie Smith and Kyle Davis dropped 20, 15 and 11 points respectively. While only cashing in four times from downtown, a majority of Dayton’s points came from inside the paint, 54 to be exact.
The downlow play of the Flyers seemed to tell the story for this game as they finished with 26 more points in the paint and a plus 18 margin on the boards, physically outperforming Winthrop close to the basket.
“I think our guys did a good job playing downhill and getting to the rim, Charles in general was at the basket, Scoochie was there a ton and Kyle again, for the third game in a row continues to be the tone setter for the team,” head coach Archie Miller said.
But the even bigger story of the game was Pollard’s return to play, as he came off the bench halfway through the first half to a standing ovation from the Flyer Faithful. In an interview just four days prior, Miller stated that he was still unsure if Pollard was going to be able to practice this week. Four days and three limited practices later, the senior forward was healthy enough to play for the first time this year.
“It felt great, I was excited, as you guys could see,” Pollard said after the game. “I had a lot of adrenaline running through me and just had to calm down and start playing better in the second half.”
After some mental errors and small miscues in the first half, Pollard stepped it up big time for the Flyers as he had a hand on five straight scoring possessions. He exploded offensively, scoring three times in the paint, finding a cutting Flyer for an easy score and slamming home a dunk to force a Winthrop timeout.
“He’s a very confident kid on the court, he’s a competitive guy, and he was probably only 50, 60 percent conditioned today, so once he gets his legs back under him, I think we’ll start to see the Kendall that they all want to see,” Miller said on Pollard’s impact on the game and his teammates.
Dayton however had its hands full with the duo of Keon Johnson and Xavier Cooks, who combined for 38 points, over half of their team’s offensive production. The latter of the two would foul out late in the second half, aiding in the Flyers ability to close out the game strong.
“That was big, if he doesn’t foul out, it’s a different game, he’s a really hard player to guard,” Miller said.
The front end of Winthrop’s dynamic duo, Johnson, a 5’7” point guard, would use his smaller, quicker frame to slip through the cracks in Dayton’s defense on his way to scoring a game high 24 points.
Cooke was Dayton’s leading scorer with 20 points on the afternoon. He continued to have his way with opposing defenses, scoring at least 15 points for the sixth time this season.
He’s being very aggressive in general, he’s not settling for threes,” Miller said of his senior guard. “We need him to continue being aggressive, and in my opinion, he’s a player of the year type candidate in our league and he’s got to be that guy for us.”
This win gives Dayton its third straight victory and first in December.
Photo courtesy of @flyer_images