By: Steve Miller – Staff Writer
It will be a different year of Flyer men’s basketball.
Dayton showcased its depth, height and talent Friday night in a season-opening, 84-53 victory over Southeast Missouri State. First-year forward Ryan Mikesell led UD with 21 points, including five 3-pointers, in his collegiate debut—after growing up watching the Flyers.
“Coach is always harping on me about shooting the ball, and if I’m open, just shoot it,” the young forward from St. Henry, Ohio, said after the game. “And my teammates did a great job of finding me when I was open, and I was just letting it fly.”
Sophomore guard Darrell Davis tallied 15 points including two 3-pointers in his 23 minutes, building off his first-year season, in which he led the Atlantic 10 Conference in 3-point shooting percentage.
The star of the night, though, was Mikesell, proven by his consistent ability to convert scoring chances and his teammates and coach’s statements.
“Anytime you get to start off your career with one of those, it should give you great confidence,” head coach Archie Miller said in a postgame press conference about Mikesell. “Ryan’s a worker. He’s a competitive kid. He has great confidence about himself.”
Mikesell didn’t start but played 26 minutes in total—tied with sophomore Kendall Pollard for the most playing time. He drained five of seven 3-point attempts and tallied eight rebounds and four assists, while not turning the ball over a single time.
“It’s always a good thing,” Davis said of Mikesell’s performance after the game. “Especially someone like him, a freshman coming out and producing in that way. It means that he’s going to be a great player.”
Davis himself was 2-for-6 on 3-point attempts and corralled eight rebounds.
“Seven defensive rebounds from your guard is fantastic,” Miller said. “Darrell is a much better player than he was a year ago … had some good looks tonight that he didn’t make, but if he has one of those nights where he’s capable of banging three or four 3’s, he has a spectacular [game].”
Davis’ 15 points were second only to Mikesell’s 21 for the night.
Dayton as a team had 52 rebounds to Southeast Missouri’s 36, showing the Flyers’ added height. Four UD players measure taller than 6’6”—Mikesell, Sam Miller, Steve McElvene and Xeyrius Williams. Last season, the tallest Flyers were Bobby Wehrli and Kendall Pollard, both 6-foot-6.
Although the Flyers raked in points, they also raked in fouls—as did the Redhawks. Dayton was called for 26 personal fouls and Southeast Missouri, 28. This season, NCAA referees have been instructed to more strictly call hand checks and other personal fouls, evident by the three Flyers who finished the game with four fouls.
“I was really disappointed in the fouls. Twenty-six personal fouls is unacceptable. They’re calling them. Right now, a lot of hand checking, a lot of body bumping. And we [will] have to get better at it,” Miller said. “A year ago, we couldn’t foul. It was a desperation. If you foul, we were going to lose the game. I think we have to continue to feel that way, and hopefully tonight will help us.”
Miller, of course, was referring to last season, when Dayton only had seven scholarship players. This year, that number is up to 11.
All 11 of those players scored Friday night, and Miller got walk-ons Joey Gruden, Michael Schwieterman and Jack Westerfield in on the action for the final minute of the game.
The Flyers play next Tuesday afternoon against Alabama at UD Arena.
“Hopefully the whole university doesn’t go to school on Tuesday and they all can come over here, and we can put as many people [as possible in UD Arena],” Miller said. “I think Tuesday should be a very unique day for us. It’s the marathon, everybody’s playing during the day. And to be at home, at 1 o’clock against Alabama, I think it’ll be one of the better crowds that we have.”
Check out the full gallery from the game below.