By: Steve Miller – Staff Writer
It’s safe to say that the University of Dayton’s campus is a more energetic place now that basketball season has officially begun.
With both the men and women’s teams winning their season openers at UD Arena on Friday, spirits are high as both squads look to compete in the Atlantic 10 and return to the NCAA tournament. Here are the things we learned about Dayton basketball from the opening victories:
Volume equals length times depth times height. The men’s team substantially added to two of those dimensions between the end of last season and the start of this one. Eleven different Flyers scored in Friday’s win—compared to the seven scholarship players who carried Dayton through last season.
Redshirt first-year Steve McElvene, who stands at 6-feet-11-inches, will be a force to be reckoned with this season. He made his presence felt in the opener with six rebounds and three blocks in 19 minutes. Charles Cooke, Xeyrius Williams and Ryan Mikesell, all in their first year at Dayton, each had blocks in the game as well.
Dayton shutout Southeast Missouri State for the first six minutes of Friday’s game, largely because of their size and ability to disrupt opposing shots. In the end, UD had 52 rebounds to Southeast Missouri’s 36.
Learn the name, Flyer fans. The 6-foot-7 first-year from St. Henry, Ohio, sunk five 3-pointers in his collegiate debut on his way to 21 points to lead UD.
“It’s the same concept. The ball just has to go through the hoop,” the ever-relaxed Mikesell said after the game with much less sarcasm than you would believe.
Head coach Archie Miller sang Mikesell’s praises Friday night.
“Being able to make the three’s as consistent as he was tonight was nice to see because he gives us another guy who can shoot the ball,” Miller said. “You can tell he’s going to help our team.”
Foul, but don’t foul
This season, the NCAA referees are to call stricter hand checking and body bumping fouls, and it was apparent Friday night in the men’s game. Much to Miller’s disdain, UD was called for 26 personal fouls, allowing SE Missouri to the bonus in the first half and double bonus in the second.
If fouls were called this way last year, the Flyers would have been toast. With just seven players, fouling out was detrimental.
“If you foul we were going to lose the game. I think we have to continue to feel that way,” Miller said Friday. With the added depth, the Flyers can still be aggressive defensively, but will have to adjust to the new calls.
It was evident early on that 2016 would be a rebuilding year for Dayton women’s basketball. With leading scorers Ally Malott and Andrea Hoover graduating in 2015, the shoes to fill are larger than anyone would like. Seniors Jodie Cornelie-Sigmundova, Amber Deane and Kelley Austria are ready to take the reins.
Deane, last year’s A-10 Sixth Woman of the Year, led the Flyers with 19 points in the opening 81-75 win over Yale Friday.
Cornelie-Sigmundova secured 7 rebounds in the game.
“Everyone’s role shifts, even the newcomers have a new role just by being here,” junior center Sachia Grant-Allen said in a press conference after the Flyers exhibition win over Gannon on Nov. 6. “Everyone needs to give a little bit more, whether that’s running more in transition…or shooting more or being a leader.” Dayton was picked to finish second in the conference in the Atlantic 10 preseason coaches’ poll.
Up-tempo offense will be the key to the women’s team yet again this year.
“We’re going to shoot the ball and score it, and we’re going to run,” head coach Jim Jabir said after the exhibition game.
Dayton averaged 76.5 points per game last season. The key, though, is balancing a fast offense with a stalwart defense.
“Usually what you emphasize is what you get good at. We’ve emphasized our break from the beginning,” Jabir said. “And now we have to draw back a little bit and also emphasize getting stops and playing better defense.”
“Your freshman to sophomore year is the biggest jump,” Archie Miller said before the season about Darrell Davis.
Davis, who led the Atlantic 10 in 3-point shooting percentage as a first-year last year, scored 15 points in Friday’s win.
“He’s going to play a big role for us, he’s going to play a lot of minutes,” Miller said of his guard’s performance. Davis’ eight rebounds in the game were second only to junior forward Kendall Pollard’s 10.
On the women’s team, sophomore guard Jenna Burdette has her own stepping up to do, having been a starter during last year’s tournament run.
“I love Jenna, I think she’s a great point guard and she makes us better,” Jabir said. “I want to see her more aggressive, I want to see her score more. She’s steady and I trust her.” Burdette scored 12 points in 34 minutes in Friday’s win.
So come out to the Arena
While Archie Miller’s facetious wish for the university to cancel classes Tuesday afternoon so that students could support the Flyers in their game against Alabama may not have come to fruition, energizing UD Arena is imperative for the student body.
Going into Tuesday’s matchup, the men’s team had won 23 consecutive games on Blackburn Court and they don’t want to slow down.
Meanwhile, if you want to see some points scored, the women’s games are exhilarating to take in—not to mention the women consistently make free throws better than the men’s team. On Friday, the women were 26-32 from the free throw line, while the men were 22-37.
It’s basketball season. So put down the books, and go Flyers!