EDITOR’S NOTE: David Jablonski is counting down to the Dayton men’s basketball season opener on Nov. 7 with 25 pieces (one every day until Nov. 7) previewing the 2022-23 season. This is the eighth story.
The Dayton Flyers made the most of their time in front of the fans at the Red & Blue Game on Saturday by shooting extra free throws before the game.
Players took turns at the line with all their teammates standing on the baseline watching. If they made the shot, they got a second attempt. If they missed, they returned to the baseline with their teammates.
“That’s something we do in practice,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said after the scrimmage. “We try to do that on a daily basis. We call them pressure free throws. Today was an opportunity to do it in front of people for the first time to see how they react, and they met the goal.”
Free-throw percentage is in an area where Dayton hopes to improve in the 2022-23 season. It shot 68.3% last season, its lowest percentage since the 2015-16 season (66.8). The national average was 71.7%,
“Our opponents’ free-throw percentage defense was better than we wanted it to be,” Grant joked. “So hopefully we’ll be a little bit better this year, but that’s certainly an area that we could have improvement.”
Dayton shot below 60 percent in seven games last season and lost one of those. It made 12 of 23 free throws in a 72-61 loss at Saint Louis. It might not have won that game even with an average day at the free-throw line, but if it had shot better than 64.3% (9 of 14) at La Salle, it might have avoided a 62-60 loss.
Strong free-throw shooting doesn’t guarantee victories, of course. Dayton was 7-6 when it shot better than 70%. Three-point shooting is a much better indicator of whether Dayton is going to win. It was 14-0 when it shot 40% or better last season.
Individually, Dayton’s big men, DaRon Holmes II and Toumani Camara, have the most room for improvement at the line. Holmes shot 58.6% (82 of 140) as a freshman. He would have been on the national average if he had made 18 more. Camara shot 59.1% (55 of 93). He shot 61.2% in his first two seasons at Georgia.
Among players who were in the rotation all season, Malachi Smith (76 of 97, 78.4%) was Dayton’s best free-throw shooter.
The work will continue in the final weeks of the preseason. Dayton plays West Virginia in a closed-door scrimmage Saturday on the campus of Bethany College near Wheeling, W.Va. The next chance to shoot free throws in front of fans comes in an exhibition game against Capital University at 7 p.m. Oct. 29 at UD Arena.
Dayton guard R.J. Blakney, who shot 71.2% (42 of 59) at the line last season, doesn’t remember free throws costing Dayton a victory last season, but said last summer it has been a focus in practice.
“That’s a very important thing,” Blakney said. “We work on that a lot.”
DAYTON SEASON PREVIEW
Part 1: Fans dreaming big as always
Part 2: A-10 changes tournament format for first time in years
Part 3: A familiar face returns to A-10
Part 4: KenPom.com’s math likes the Flyers
Part 5: Three new walk-ons join roster
Part 6: Grant, Martin don’t look forward to coaching against each other
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