Pictured is #11 Malachi Smith against South Illinois University Edwardsville. Photo courtesy of Olivia Shirk for Flyer News.
TJ Thompson | Contributing Writer
The University of Dayton Flyers opened up their season with a win Monday Night over the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Cougars. The Flyers came out flying, with the first official points of the season being from DaRon Holmes II’s alley-oop dunk off of an assist from Malachi Smith.
Kobe Elvis followed that up by hitting a three-pointer the following possession, putting Dayton up 5-0 early. The Flyers momentum came to a halt when they went over 4 minutes without scoring another point, allowing SIUE to stay in striking distance.
Halfway through the first half, the Flyers found themselves down by four points. With 9:28 left, Holmes converted an and-one, cutting the point deficit to one. A pair of Koby Brea threes late in the half would be the exclamation point to the Flyer’s 11-0 run to end the half, which gave them a 26-24 lead at halftime.
The Flyers came out strong after halftime. Dayton shot 52% from the floor in the second half compared to 33% in the first half. Javon Bennett and Enoch Cheeks, both first-year Flyer transfers, were a great one-two punch filling in for the absence of Smith. Who left with an injury after just seven minutes on the court.
Another new face, Isaac Jack, was a huge spark off the bench, going 3-3 from the field in just eight minutes, two of those points coming from a massive slam with just under nine minutes to play. The Flyer lead was extended to 15 with a Kobe Elvis three-pointer with 3:35 remaining. The Flyers went on to defeat the SUIE Cougars 63-47. Holmes led the team with 19 points, followed by Elvis with nine. Nate Santos pulled in 14 rebounds in his Flyer’s debut.
The big news from this game though was Malachi Smith’s season-ending injury that he sustained early on in the game. A press release from Dayton Athletics announced that Smith underwent successful surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee.
According to this press release, “The typical rehab for this procedure is approximately five months, so Smith will miss the rest of the 2023-2024 season.” Malachi is coming off of a season where he was only able to play 19 games due to injuries he sustained to both ankles, culminating in surgery on both this last offseason. “He worked extremely hard to recover from off-season (ankle) surgeries to have the opportunity to compete with his teammates this season. Although he, and we, are disappointed, we remain positive and prayerful that he will recover fully and return healthy next season for himself, his teammates, and the Flyer Faithful.” Head Coach Anthony Grant said.
By only participating in one game Smith is eligible for a medical redshirt, therefore allowing him to have two more potential years of eligibility. With Malachi sidelined for the rest of the season, it is up to Javon Bennett to have a strong first year as a Flyer. He led the nation last year in steals when he was at Merrimack College, and he had a big debut on Monday, with five points, six assists and no turnovers.