It was his fourth drive to the rim of the second half Saturday, but this one was different.
For just a moment, Kyle Davis wasn’t flying down the court at sold-out UD Arena, he was back on the South Side of Chicago, going to the hoop in the alley behind his house at 86th and Union.
And instead of 6-foot-8 Duquesne defender Isiaha Mike closing in hard from the right, ready to battle him the rest of the way to the hoop, it was his Uncle Richard who was using the beef, the chatter and the savvy of a grown man trying to muscle a young boy into compliance.
“When I was young my uncle wouldn’t let me win,” recalled Davis, the Dayton Flyers’ 6-foot senior guard. “He’d play hard, foul hard. He kind of made it hard for me to score. So I had to find a way to get to the basket. I had to find a way to create a shot for myself.
“That’s why now when I step out on the court and someone gives me a hard foul, it doesn’t faze me. It’s nothing but normal. And some big guys underestimate short guards, so you got to prove them wrong.”
That’s the mindset Davis had when — using his right elbow and forearm to fend off Mike, who was draped on his shoulder — he went up with his left hand and managed to make the basket.
Even better, Mike was whistled for the foul and left shaking his head in frustration.
Such plays in the 90-53 victory made UD coach Archie Miller all but gush afterward when he talked about Davis, who is returning from a Jan. 14 ankle injury suffered at Duquesne that kept him out two games and now has relegated him to coming off the bench the past three games after 86 straight career starts:
“I think he’s back into form. He looks himself,” Miller said. “Like I’ve said, he’s pretty much been our MVP all year, from day one on and off the floor. It’s not that other guys haven’t done good things, but he hasn’t changed one bit. He’s very much the sane from the start of the season to today.”
Against the Dukes, Davis shot 5-for-5 from the floor to finish with 12 points. He had six rebounds, five assists and a steal against no turnovers in 19 minutes.
Miller said if you looked at his output Saturday “you wouldn’t know if he started or not. He doesn’t care about starting, doesn’t care about anything but winning.
“And that’s contagious He’s allowed other guys on the floor to do things they wouldn’t (otherwise) be able to do. And he just does everything you ask a guy to do. He’s so unselfish at both ends of the floor “
That was evident when Davis first entered the game at the 15:09 mark of the first half. Over the next seven minutes he got four rebounds, made the one 3-pointer he took, dished out two assists and played aggressive defense, highlighted when he stole the ball from 6-11 center Darius Jones.
Miller said it’s that kind of gritty play that will carry the Flyers down the stretch:
“He helps us get through a tough period. Once you get to February and you’re on that stretch run, you depend on your older guys to sort of (carry you).
“Every game gets bigger, every practice is important and (Kyle) really shows and sets the tone for that.”
The Flyers upped their record to 17-5 — and 8-2 in the Atlantic 10 — because they moved the ball around superbly on offense (37 baskets, 30 assists) and played unyielding defense that forced the Dukes into 16 turnovers, 36.4 percent shooting and a couple of long stretches — one for 6 ½ minutes, another for 5 ½ — where they didn’t score.
While Kendall Pollard led the way with 16 points, Darrell Davis had 13 and Charles Cooke had nine points, eight rebounds and six assists, no one made more of an impact than Davis.
He left UD Arena leading the A-10 in field-goal percentage for all games (.619), as well as conference games (.667). He also leads in 3-point shooting accuracy in conference games (.588).
Saturday marked his 15th straight A-10 game where he shot better than 50 percent from the floor.
“I really don’t care about all that,” Davis said afterward. “A person like me taking high-percentage shots, I guess I would be up there.”
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On the second of the four drives he scored on in the second half — a breakaway set up by a long Scoochie Smith pass — he simply went up for a left handed layup.
“That first one I laid up I should have dunked it,” he grinned. “So I told myself., the next one I WAS gonna dunk it and I got the opportunity thanks to (a pass from) Trey (Landers).
Davis claims he first dunked when he was a 5-foot-7 sixth-grader, but even now watching the 6-footer soar above the rim stirs a bit of amazement from the crowd.
“I didn’t really think about it, but then Blackman (Dukes guard Emile Blackman) asked me when I dunked: ‘Why didn’t you do nothing freaky?’
“I said, ‘Man, last time I played you I got hurt. So I really wasn’t trying to do nothing crazy. I just wanted to put the ball in the basket and go down and play defense.’ ”
He said he was just concentrating on winning the game.
And that brings us back to one other lesson from the alley court of his South Side boyhood.
His Uncle Richard once recalled those same games to me:
“Nothing was given to him out there. And we made him keep playing until he won. He couldn’t quit, couldn’t go in the house, nothing ‘til he won. No matter how long it took, he kept playing ‘til he finally won.
“He had to get used to walking off a winner.”
And that’s just what Kyle Davis did, once again, at UD Arena.