Pictured is DaRon Holmes II and Mustapha Amzil. Photo courtesy of Keegan Gupta, director of digital media and photography.
Jack Batten | Contributing writer
The Flyers were not going to allow the packed UD Arena crowd to leave on another sour note Tuesday. Just four nights after blowing a 16-point lead to Atlantic 10 rival VCU, the Flyers got back in the win column with a 68-61 victory over the Davidson Wildcats.
Dayton’s scoring was led by upperclassmen Mustapha Amzil, who had 19 points, and Toumani Camara, with 15. The Flyers improved to 13-6 overall and 5-1 in A-10 play.
“It’s never easy,” said Coach Anthony Grant. “This was a really hard-fought, really high level, in my opinion, college basketball game.”
The Flyers quickly erased a three point halftime deficit with a 15-2 run. During this run, Dayton connected on seven of their first eight shots, with four assists from freshman guard Mike Sharavjamts. Sharavjamts led the team with seven assists.
Sophomore guard Malachi Smith was a welcome sight in his first game since November 25. Smith, a member of last year’s conference All-Rookie team, checked into the game after the first TV timeout, smiling broadly to an ovation.
“It was a lot of fun to see our brother come back,” Amzil said. “It was great to see that big smile on his face after he got that first lay up.”
Smith missed the previous 11 games after sustaining an ankle injury in the final game of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. Smith, who started 29 games for the Flyers last season, logged 16 minutes. He finished with five points and five assists.
A pair of free throws by Davidsons’ David Skogman cut the Dayton lead to four with just under five minutes left. On the following possession, Flyers’ sharpshooter Koby Brea missed a wide open layup that would have extended the lead to six. However, just 17 seconds later, Brea redeemed himself with a three pointer in front of the home bench. The junior guard has shot the three point ball at a 61.9% (13-21) clip to begin Atlantic 10 play.
Despite making only two of their final seven shots from the free throw line, Dayton held on for the seven-point-home win. The Flyers’ leading scorer on the season and conference player of the year candidate, DaRon Holmes II, was limited to just four points on 2-for-4 shooting. Davidson keyed in on Holmes II in the post, double teaming him often. Holmes II scored 32 points on 11-for-14 from the field when the two teams met on Dec. 31 at Davidson.
Defensively, Dayton held Davidson’s leading scorer, Foster Loyer, to seven points on 3-of-11 shooting and 1-of-6 from three point range. Loyer, the conference’s ninth leading scorer, did not crack the scoring column until the 8:57 mark of the second half.
“He is a great player, a guy we have seen before,” Amzil said. “He can really shoot the ball… but we have RJ Blakney.”
The junior guard, Blakney, was the primary defender tasked with stopping Davidsons’ leading scorer. Blakney provided constant defensive intensity, finishing with two steals and a block. Blakneys’ defense resulted in fast breaks that led to two of his three dunks on the night.
Coach Grant noted postgame that shooting guard Kobe Elvis has been upgraded to day-to-day. The redshirt sophomore has missed the last 12 games with a lower body injury.
The Wildcats, now 2-5 to begin Atlantic 10 play, were led in scoring by Columbus native, Desmond Watson. The sophomore guard finished with 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting. Junior forward, Sam Mennenga, added 15 points and 13 rebounds for Davidson.
Since joining the Atlantic 10 in the 2014-15 season, Davidson has lost nine of 11 games to Dayton. The Wildcats are now winless in five visits to UD Arena.
Dayton will travel to Washington, D.C. to take on George Washington at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. The Flyers next home game will be on Jan. 28 when Richmond comes to UD Arena.