Dayton vs. Gonzaga, midnight Monday, ESPN2, 1290, 95.7
Devon Scott cupped his hand around his ear at one point late in the second half, as if to amplify the applause coming the Flyers’ way from their fans or maybe to tease a Georgia Tech crowd silenced by Dayton’s dominant play.
When the final horn sounded after an 82-72 victory Wednesday at McCamish Pavilion, Devin Oliver pointed in celebration to those same fans, his smile as wide as the distance between Atlanta and Hawaii, the distance the Flyers will fly today to get to the Maui Invitational.
It will be a jubilant bunch heading west — if their long legs can take such a long trip in such a confined space — because the Flyers not only knocked off an ACC team on the road, they beat the Yellow Jackets and former Dayton coach Brian Gregory by double digits and never let their lead slip below six points in the final 17 minutes.
This was not the Dayton team that escaped an upset in its opener against IPFW thanks to a last-second 3-pointer, or one that struggled to beat St. Francis University (Pa.). This looked like a team that will contend in the Atlantic 10 and compete for an NCAA tournament bid.
The Flyers played so well, coach Archie Miller might even let them see the beach in Hawaii or take them out for shaved ice.
“I hope so,” junior guard Jordan Sibert said. “Knowing him, we probably won’t get that. It’s all business.”
Sibert and Oliver both scored 20 points. Vee Sanford and Scott added 15 and 13 points, respectively, off the bench.
Dayton (4-0) improved to 3-0 all-time against Georgia Tech and handed the Yellow Jackets (3-1) their first loss this season by taking over the game in the final six minutes of the first half. A 15-2 run gave the Flyers a 39-32 halftime lead. They stretched the lead to 50-38 in the first five minutes of the second half, putting on a clinic of offensive execution.
Freshman Scoochie Smith’s play at point guard — five assists, no turnovers in 13 minutes — played a big part in that. At one point, he was on the floor for a key stretch with the other two freshmen, Kyle Davis and Kendall Pollard. That had to thrill Flyer fans, who can be just as excited about the future as they are about the present.
“Obviously, a heck of a win for our team,” Miller said. “I’ve spent a lot of time down in this part of the country playing, and it’s not easy to win on the road. We have a new group, and we haven’t been at our best, I feel, to start the early part of the season. We came together. We had a lot of guys contribute. It’s a great win against a very good team.”