By Ken Cross
Friday night’s 89-82 overtime win over Davidson showed why the experience of the Dayton Flyers and the pieces that Archie Miller has beside of them could allow this team to post a deep run in March.
The senior triplicate of Charles Cooke, Kendall Pollard, and Scoochie Smith was on display in the win.
Cooke allowed the Flyers to keep pace in the first half when they struggled from the field. In fact, Dayton didn’t score a field goal from the 13:33 mark when Ryan Mikesell scored on a layup until the 3:32 when Xeyrius Williams hit a three that cut the Wildcats’ lead to 38-34.
In between, Cooke was aggressive with the basketball in getting to the line and making 7-of-8 shots as Kyle Davis and Josh Cunningham added to the free throw count which went to 19-of-23 for the first half.
“I thought we were very fortunate, commented Miller, “We got a couple of stops which got us to the foul line and after that our guys were pretty comfortable in our situations.”
Pollard took over the second half as he finished with 18 points and 12 boards. After Davidson took a 70-57 lead with 7:44 remaining, he scored seven points in a 15-2 Dayton run that allowed the Flyers to tie the game at 72-72 with 2:33 to play
“We have been in a lot of situations and have a lot of experience in a lot of situations with a lot of experience in these situations,” noted Miller, “Listening to the guys in the huddle, I don’t think there was a fracture or anything was ever broken.”
Not at all. Scoochie Smith, the colorful senior guard, had a quiet evening as he had only six points going into the overtime. Smith turned up. He made three triples in the first 2:30 as Dayton gained the upper hand at 83-76. He later had a layup that foiled the Wildcats once and for all.
“Scooch has done it a thousand times,” said Miller, “Making that first three really opened up a can of worms for that team.”
— David Jablonski (@DavidPJablonski) February 25, 2017
The mentality of this team is to pick things up when the going gets tough. It is a huge reason why Dayton matched last year’s record of 7-2 on the road with Friday night’s win.
“The group that finished the game did a nice job of hanging tough and once we got to overtime, I thought we had a lot of energy about us.”
And then there was the X-Factor
Xeyrius Williams is a lengthy sophomore who shoots 41.2 percent from the field while blocking a team-high 43 shots on the season. He had a career-high of 18 in a win over Duquesne earlier in the year and his athleticism allows him to do several things on both ends of the floor to complement his teamates.
Friday night, Williams scored 11 points in the last 3:32 as the Flyers turned a seven-point deficit into a 46-45 lead at halftime.
“Xeyrius is an interesting guy,” said Miller, “He is a guy who can make a couple of mistakes and then turn it over and then the next thing he can make three threes and a game winner. That’s who he has been for us. He has really developed over the course of the season. He’s playing at a level now where he can see himself being one of the better players in this league one day.”