Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Dayton 92, Rhode Island 83

It would have been nice for the Dayton Flyers to create a storm of their own in the second half, but weathering a Rhode Island storm did the trick, too.

After a shooting a ridiculous 74 percent from the field in the first half, UD seemed to go into stall mode for much of the second half, content to keep the lead where it was without taking chances to build it further. When the Flyers started running the shot clock down on nearly every possession, it made some sense. The Rams are a team that can run. If you're up 13 at halftime and try to run with them in the second half while having no chance to keep up your torrid shooting pace, 13 can disappear quickly.

Problem was, it started disappearing anyway. The Flyers looked out of synch and tentative for long stretches, possibly because they were in play-not-to-lose mode, always a bad approach. Consciously or not, the Flyers were clinging to their lead instead of pushing it.

They managed to keep Rhode Island at bay until the 14-minute mark, when the Rams went on a 9-2 run. From the nine-minute mark to the six-minute mark, they trimmed the lead to three on three separate occasions.

Luckily, UD's knack for coming up big in big spots shined through again. A rundown:

  • The Flyers led by three with six minutes to go when London Warren somehow came up with a loose ball at Rhode Island's end. Actually, it was more like a super loose ball. I think at least six players touched the ball and all of them ended up on the floor. Somehow, Warren, who had been on the floor just seconds before, grabbed the ball, raced to the other end and got fouled on a layup attempt. He only made 1-of-2, but just getting possession in that spot was huge, and maybe a little bit deflating for the Rams. They had seemed on the verge of completing their comeback. Instead, they missed out on the chance to tie and didn't hit another field goal for almost three minutes.
  • With the lead still at four after Warren's free throw, Andres Sandoval hit a driving layup with the shot clock running down. Out of nowhere, Sandoval showed a burst of speed I didn't know he had.
  • With 3:32 left, Charles Little hit a layup and got fouled. He made the free throw for an eight-point lead.
  • After five quick points by the Rams cut the lead to four, Marcus Johnson hit a back-breaking three that represented the first nail in the coffin. It came off an out-of-bounds play, which came after a shaky exchange near mid-court. Johnson was trying desperately to get the ball to Brian Roberts as the shot clock ran down. He lost the ball, and it bounced around until Warren fell on it and called time out. Johnson then set up on the wing for the inbounds pass, somehow was left wide open and drilled the shot.
  • Warren came through one final time with 30 seconds left when he poked the ball away from Jimmy Baron, Jr. The Rams trailed by five but when Jimmy Binnie came up with the loose ball Warren helped create, the game was essentially over.
So there were a lot of big spots. As the Flyers have done all year, they found a way to be at their best in those spots. When the Rams had similar opportunities, they couldn't deliver. After all, for as many times as they got within three, they never did get closer.

The result was Dayton's biggest conference victory since . . . 2004, maybe? I'm thinking about the Xavier game at home, when the Flyers finally got the monkey off their back.

In a way, though, this is new territory. Winning the A-10 opener over a ranked team for your 12-straight win? Yes. New territory, indeed.

A few more notes:
  • Warren only scored three points, but I might give him the MVP. He came up with the aforementioned big plays and also seemed to set the pace and make things go on offense. Sandoval and Johnson are a close second and third. Both found themselves open on outside shots and both hit their fair share. Kurt Huelsman was tough inside at both ends, and Mickey Perry came up huge on several occasions.
  • Brian Roberts took a few questionable shots and made one questionable ally-oop pass. But he still scored a team-high 23 points and made his presence felt in other ways. I'm not certain, but I'm guessing Rhode Island was denying Roberts the ball on the late inbounds pass, which might have something to do with Johnson getting an open look.
  • Any time you shoot 74 percent in a half, it's somewhat of a fluke. But this wasn't all fluke. The Flyers made 21 of 27 shots in the first half and I'd venture a guess that the majority of them -- at least the outside shots -- were open looks. That's a testament to the Flyers' halfcourt offense and a bit of an indictment of Rhody's defense.
  • Huelsman fits into this offense so well. You watch some teams and their big men are posting up furiously and their perimeter players spend ten seconds figuring out which way to make an entry pass. The Flyers don't do that. Huelsman can post up, but he appears to be at his best when he's getting the ball in the flow of the offense. When he does get the ball in those situations, he's finishing.
  • The Jimmy Baron, Jr., fadeaway three is terrifying because you can't believe it but you know it's probably going in.
  • If you had told me beforehand that someone would score 92 points, I wouldn't have picked the Flyers.
  • I guess it's nice that this team doesn't NEED Chris Wright, but it sure is nice to have him. Heal quickly.
  • Will Daniels is good. He basically did whatever he wanted to do.
  • The Rhode Island fans I watched the game with just loved Mike Hartsock and his posse.
  • A question that popped up -- does URI fall out of the Top 25 with this loss? I'm not sure. It may depend on what happens to teams around them. Either way, here's hoping we're both ranked for the Feb. 2 rematch in Little Rhody.
  • Next: Saturday at St. Louis, 8 p.m.
Peace. Go Flyers.

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