Dayton Flyers seniors notch 100th career victory

Sophomores play big role in victory over George Mason

The Dayton Flyers seniors won their 100th game Tuesday. Only 15 senior classes in Atlantic 10 history can claim that many victories.

Now the question becomes: how many wins can the classes that follow accumulate? Dayton’s sophomores, who call themselves the 2K19 Gang, played a big part in an 83-70 victory over George Mason at UD Arena.

Backup point guard John Crosby scored nine of his career-high 12 points in a decisive 20-0 run in the second half. Forward Xeyrius Williams had 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and three blocks, filling the box score as he has done for most of the season. Forward Ryan Mikesell didn’t have big numbers — five points and five rebounds — but he made a number of plays during the big run, which came with two of Dayton’s standout seniors, Scoochie Smith and Kendall Pollard, on the bench.

The next few weeks will be all about the seniors, who celebrate Senior Night on March 1 against Virginia Commonwealth, but this team will go nowhere without the underclassmen who hold the keys to Dayton’s future. They have a long way to go to surpass the current seniors, who are 100-33 in four seasons.

“We want to get like 120,” Crosby said. “One more than them, I’m fine with it. I don’t know what it’s going to be. We go through ups and downs. Just keep watching. We’re going to keep getting better. You’re going to see more from the 2K19 gang.”

The sophomores are 47-13. Dayton finished 25-8 last season. The Flyers are 22-5 this season. That’s the same record they had through 27 games last season, but this season feels different.

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The Flyers moved a half game ahead of VCU, which hosts Saint Louis on Wednesday, in the Atlantic 10 standings with three games to go. They have won a season-best seven in a row and keep generating momentum for a March to remember. Three games remain in the regular season.

“It’s so crazy,” Williams said. “I was just remembering October and how we could wait until the season starts. Now it’s already the end of the season. This is fun. This is when it starts getting good. Everything means something.”

George Mason (18-10, 8-7) is one of the most improved teams in the country, and aside from a six-minute span in the second half, it lived up to that billing.

The Patriots trimmed a 48-38 Dayton lead to 48-47 in three possessions. Jaire Grayer hit a 3-pointer. Ian Boyd followed with a 3. Then Grayer converted a three-point play.

A crowd of 13,071 went quiet for a few seconds. Then Charles Cooke hit a 3-pointer, and the rout was on. Crosby scored the next four points. Josh Cunningham followed with a layup. A 3-pointer by Kyle Davis with 9:40 to go pushed the lead to 60-47.

By the time the run ended, Dayton led 68-47 with 7:30 to go. George Mason missed seven straight shots during the run and committed three turnovers.

There have been times this season Dayton couldn’t afford having Crosby on the court more than a few minutes. The team has struggled without Scoochie Smith on the floor. That wasn’t the case at the key moment in the game this time.

“John’s come a long way,” Williams said. “I love seeing part of the 2k19 gang play like that. Our sophomore class is going to be very good. I was happy for him. It was his time. He stepped up.”

Dayton needed that 21-point lead because George Mason didn’t go away. They answered with a 14-3 run but got no closer than nine points in the final minutes.

Smith led the Flyers with 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Cooke scored 12. Kendall Pollard had 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting. He missed two practices in the days leading up to this game because of an ankle injury, and Miller said they weren’t sure if he was going to be able to play.

Dayton won the game by taking care of the ball, committing a season-low five turnovers and continuing to shoot the ball well from the free-throw line (17 of 24, 70.8 percent). The Flyers also played strong defense with nine blocks and eight steals.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “That was a team win. We had a lot of different guys do a lot different things. Our depth was a big reason we were able to win the game. George Mason is a really good team. They cause a lot of problems for you defensively with their four guards.”


FRIDAY’S GAME

Dayton at Davidson, 9 p.m., ESPN2, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO

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