By: Connor Hanson – Staff Writer
After a California Thanksgiving stuffed with high-intensity games, the Dayton men’s basketball team returns to UD Arena with a better sense of who they are as a team.
The Flyers opened the Wooden Legacy with a close loss to Nebraska, in which Dayton clawed its way back from a double-digit deficit in the second half. Senior guard Scoochie Smith hit a go-ahead layup with 16 seconds left to play, but UD would saw that lead snapped away as the Cornhuskers’ Glynn Watson Jr. hit both his free throws on the opposite end to ice the game seconds later.
On just a day of rest, Dayton played Portland on Friday evening. With five players scoring in double-digits, UD secured its first win of the tournament. Then on Sunday, Dayton went up against New Mexico for the fifth place game in the Wooden Legacy. Coming out strong on defense, the Flyers limited the Lobos to 57 points on their way to a 64-57 victory.
“I felt like we improved every game from Nebraska, where we played poorly and didn’t play with toughness, to responding in a short turnaround to Portland and then with a day to prepare for a talented New Mexico team.” Head coach Archie Miller said in a press conference this week. “I think we started to show the energy, the toughness, the little things defensively that we need to do.”
Now back home and recouping from its holiday tournament, Dayton has a newfound view on its team, as younger players continue to break out of their shells, figuring out individual roles.
Sophomore forward Xeyrius Williams dropped 38 points in the tournament with a career high 15 points in the game against Portland. Fellow sophomores Ryan Mikesell and Sam Miller also continued to progress, as they found their numbers called more often by the team.
“I’m just trying to have more of a confidence level and just hold myself to a higher standard, that I have to come ready to play and be ready everyday.” Williams said.
“I was pleased with the progress from the [sophomores],” Miller said. “Their development and progress is gonna put us in a situation where we can trust nine, ten guys. Unfortunately we’re playing down right now, but I think with game repetition, with confidence, you’re now starting to see guys doing things we see everyday in practice.”
Dayton will now turn around and play a tough Winthrop (4-2) team, who boasts a well-rounded scoring attack, at home today.
“They’re one of the better offensive teams in the country, I think they have two all-conference players in their starting five,” Miller said. “We’re going to really have to try our best to contain the three-point line and continue to run a good offense, we can’t shoot too quick and let a team that plays that fast out in transition.”