Brea’s play a big factor in Dayton’s 5-2 start

Fourth-year guard ranks second on team in scoring entering game vs. Grambling State

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Koby Brea needed ice before he could talk to a reporter after a 65-63 victory against Southern Methodist on Wednesday in Dallas. He walked across the hall from the locker room at Moody Coliseum to visit trainer Mike Mulcahey and then emerged with two bags of ice attached to his lower legs — reminders of the offseason surgery he had in April to insert rods into both legs to address stress fractures.

Brea has emerged as, arguably, the biggest surprise of the 2023-24 season for Dayton. He got around campus in a wheelchair in the spring, didn’t play with the team on its trip to Europe and only got cleared for full-contact practices in October. Now he’s the team’s second-leading scorer (11.9 points per game) and best 3-point shooter (20 of 42, 47.6%).

Brea’s legs look strong, too. He had a putback dunk in an 88-81 victory against St. John’s in the Charleston Classic. In addition to his tie-breaking jump shot and 3-pointer in the final two minutes against SMU, he had a strong finish on a layup minutes earlier off a pass from DaRon Holmes II.

In short, Brea’s doing it all for Dayton (5-2), which returns to action at 2 p.m. Saturday against Grambling State (2-5) at UD Arena.

“There are a lot more games to be played,” Brea said, “and we’ve just got to keep the same mentality through them all and not get too high or too low and just be ready to hoop on Saturday.”

Brea scored a career-high 22 points against SMU. He had not scored 20 points since Jan. 18, 2022, when he scored 20 against St. Bonaventure. He tied his career-high for 3-pointers made by making 6 of 8 against SMU.

Brea is a career 40.3% shooter from 3-point range, so it’s not a big surprise how well he’s shooting — unless you consider what he went through in the offseason.

“He’s playing really well,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “He’s in his fourth year of college. He’s a veteran who knows what he’s capable of. We know what he’s capable of. So we’re just proud of him.”

Brea is one of three-double digit scorers on the roster. Holmes leads the team with 17 points per game. Nate Santos averages 11.7.

“That’s the thing about this team,” Holmes said. “We have different guys on any different night that can step up and do it. Nate can play great. Koby Brea, you just saw that he’s an elite sharpshooter. That’s the type of thing that makes this team special.”

Dayton will play Grambling State for the fourth time. The Flyers won 59-55 in 2005, 59-49 in 2006 and 81-53 in 2019.

Last season, Grambling finished 24-9 and won the Southwest Athletic Conference regular-season championship. A 61-58 loss to Texas Southern in the SWAC tournament championship game prevented it from playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time.

Grambling lost four double-digit scorers from the 2022-23 roster. Its top scorer this season is guard Kintavious Dozier (12.4 points per game), who played at Gadsden State Community College last season. Guard Tra’michael Moton (11.0), the second-leading scorer, is in his fifth season at Grambling. The third player averaging in double digits is forward Jalen Johnson (10.7), who played at Milwaukee last season after three seasons at Alabama A&M.

Grambling brings a four-game losing streak into this game. Its five losses are to Colorado, Delaware State, Iowa State, Sam Houston State and Troy. Its only victories came against the University of North Texas at Dallas, a NAIA program, and Champion Christian College, a program in the Association of Christian College Athletics.

“Last year, we fell short,” coach Donte’ Jackson told The Almanac before the season. “Injuries caught us at the wrong time. But at the end of the day, it was a great season for our players and coaching staff. Now, for us, it’s getting back to basics. Getting the new guys up to speed. It’ll come down to how well we share the basketball this year.”


Grambling State at Dayton, 2 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 1290, 95.7

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