Dayton at VCU, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Ch. 7, 95.7, 1290
Dayton coach Archie Miller has pointed out how the trio of Kevin Dillard, Josh Benson and Vee Sanford tend to set the tone for the rest of the team — one way or another.
When they’re functioning at a high rate, the Flyers soar. But a subpar showing from those veterans can send the squad into a funk.
Miller didn’t have to worry against visiting UAB on Saturday night. Benson had a season-high 20 points and eight rebounds, Sanford notched 19 points with five 3-pointers in seven attempts and Dillard chipped in 14 points and 10 assists in a 79-71 win before 12,455 fans at UD Arena.
“We need Josh to be consistent, and we need Vee and Kevin to be great,” Miller said. “Those two guys have to be great every night. They have to be two of the best guards in our conference. That’s the way I look at both of those guys. And when they’re playing well, we’re a different type of team.
“For Vee and Kevin to get (33) points, 11 assists and two turnovers, that’s winning basketball for our team. If they’re rock solid, we’re going to be OK. And Josh has to be aggressive for us on both ends of the floor.”
The Flyers, who concluded their non-league season 10-4, erected a 59-43 lead with 12:32 to go but scored just three points over the next eight-plus minutes, allowing the Blazers to cut the gap to 62-57.
It was still a five-point game when Sanford swished a 3 with 2:12 left. After a UAB miss, freshman guard Khari Price buried a trey to usher the Flyers out of danger.
Rod Rucker, a 6-foot-5 forward, had 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Blazers (8-7), who won the board battle, 40-36.
The Flyers shot just 42 percent from the field but committed only eight turnovers.
“That’s part of our team,” Sanford said of the second-half lull. “We need to mature. We’re going to nip that in the bud the next team we get a lead.”
After forcing 11 turnovers in the first half, UD could only coax one out of UAB after halftime.
“We have our lapses. We’re not perfect. But we’re getting better every single day,” Benson said.
Miller was aggravated that the Flyers were beaten on the boards for the fourth straight game.
“The most disappointing thing tonight was rebounding,” he said. “The effort on the glass is just not there right now for our team to be able to get one-and-dones (allowing only one shot). … Probably the last five minutes of the game, we could not come down with one, which made the game feel a little bit funny.”