By: Steve Miller – Staff Writer
The Dayton’s men’s basketball team reaped the benefits of a full six days off Saturday night with an impressive road win against the George Mason Patriots. The Flyers put up 98 points against the Patriots, and won by 32 in UD’s best offensive game to date this season. Five Flyers scored in double digits as the team shot 63 percent from the floor.
Now 9-1 in the conference and 19-3 overall, Dayton sits atop the Atlantic 10 standings with Virginia Commonwealth, who is also 9-1 in conference but 17-6 overall.
Ranked 24th this week in both the Associated Press and the USA Today’s Coaches’ Polls, UD should stay or move up in the top 25 with the win. With a record of 11-2 last month, Dayton found itself ranked 25th, but dropped its ensuing game to LaSalle, pushing the Flyers out of the rankings. This week marks the first time in the Archie Miller era that the Flyers have been ranked in the top 25 twice in the same season.
Rankings, however, mean little to Miller and the team, as Dayton tends to find more success as an underrated, unranked underdog.
“Any time you start to look outside of your own walls you could get distracted,” Miller said ahead of Saturday’s game. “Hopefully our guys are mature enough to know that if you just watch what’s going on around college basketball, it’s really difficult to win any game, let alone a game in conference in February on the road.”
He pointed to George Mason’s recent road victory over Richmond, saying it was imperative for the team to take GMU seriously. However, the Flyers handled the Patriots as well as they have with any opponent this season, and demoted GMU to 2-8 in the conference.
Miller had a point, though, because when the team was riding high on its 11-2 record in January heading into a game against LaSalle—the A-10’s worst team—they were knocked off their horse and were forced to regroup.
“Those are the hard games to wake up for and they catch you by surprise,” point guard Scoochie Smith said in a press conference before the GMU game. “Every game is the same, everybody’s going to give us their best shot.”
That’s why this week off for the Flyers came at such a great time—to focus on bettering themselves and rest up for the home stretch of the regular season.
“We’ve just been focusing on some stuff a little more, and learning more about the Dayton Flyers more than anything,” Smith said of the past week’s practice.
“With what we’re trying to accomplish as the season continues to progress, our maturity level should really be on us,” Miller said. “As a coaching staff, we’ve spent a lot less time on our opponents in the last two or three weeks and a lot more attention on ourselves.”
He continued, “I think you can tell how locked in or dialed in your team is by just focusing in on how their attitude is every day, how their camaraderie is in practice… I think [we’re] as fresh and as positive as we’ve been in a long time these past couple of weeks.”
That said, Dayton also used this week to rest their bodies and freshen up physically.
“It was good, a lot of guys went to go get extra treatment,” Smith said. “I think it helps us out a lot physically and mentally to rejuvenate ourselves and prepare.”
“Guys are banged up as normal, you have to get physically treated,” Miller said. “And a couple days off in the middle of a week can help you.”
Moving forward, UD will begin a much tougher stretch of the conference schedule. After taking on Duquesne at home February 9, the Flyers will travel to Rhode Island and St. Joseph’s— a stretch of three games in eight days.
“I think the mind at this point in time is the thing that can really distract a player, drag a player down, fatigue a player,” Miller said, mindful of the tough road ahead. “That, more than anything, at this time of year is something we’re focusing in on… I think we’re refreshed right now mentally.”
After the trip to St. Joseph’s, the Flyers have a hodgepodge of home and away tilts before the regular season finale at home against VCU March 5—a game that could decide the top seed in the A-10 and have major postseason implications.
Until then, Dayton will look to build upon their impressive record, focusing on the on-court product and leaving the fun of top 25 rankings to the fans.
Photo: The emergence of freshman point guard John Crosby (left), along with the steady presence of junior guard Kyle Davis, has helped provide head coach Archie Miller’s squad with solid backcourt play all season. Crosby’s ability to handle the point guard spot for stretches of time has helped keep starting point guard, junior Scoochie Smith, fresher throughout the season. Smith is currently having the best statistical season of his UD career. Chris Santucci/Multimedia Editor