Dayton’s ‘team of fighters’ prevails down the stretch vs. St. Bonaventure

A sellout crowd of 13,455 may have been squirming in their seats when Dayton fell behind by 15 in the first half, and coach Archie Miller probably didn’t like having to get as animated as he did to jolt his players out of their funk.

Facing big deficits, though, is nothing new for these senior-laden Flyers. They’d rather not put themselves in those predicaments, of course, but they know what to do when they get there.

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“If you noticed how the season has progressed from the beginning to now, you know we’ve always been able to come back,” forward Charles Cooke said. “We lost a few of these games because we were down too much, but we definitely have a team of fighters.”

The Flyers made adjustments against St. Bonaventure's pesky zone, ramped up the defensive pressure to get their transition game going and took control in the closing minutes for a 76-72 victory Saturday afternoon.

A 9-0 run late in the first half whittled the gap to a more manageable six at the break, and they opened the second half with an 11-1 surge on their way to their 12th straight home win and fifth in a row overall.

“This season, especially in the non-conference, we’ve been down a lot and came back,” point guard Scoochie Smith said. “There was no panic. When you’re down 15, we know you can’t get it back in one shot. You’ have to get stop after stop.”

Smith had 19 points, Kendall Pollard 16 and Cooke 13 as UD improved to 21-5 overall and remained in a first-place tie in the Atlantic 10 with VCU at 12-2 with four games left. Every other team in the conference has at least five losses.

The Flyers stretched the lead to 51-44 on a drive by Smith with 9:34 left. The Bonnies (16-10, 8-6) managed to get within one but could never catch up after that.

“Our offense in the first 10 or 12 minutes just killed whatever momentum we had,” Miller said. “We had poor possessions and were unorganized. We got into a hole. But late in the first half, our defense created some offense, and we were able to get the ball up and down like we like and made some shots.”

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Technical helps: Sophomore forward Xeyrius Williams, who had seven points and a team-high eight rebounds, drove and scored to start the second-half run.

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On the next possession, the refs called a technical on Bonnies forward Josh Ayeni, who kept scrapping for a loose ball with Cooke after the whistle.

Darrell Davis made one of two foul shots, and UD got the ball, which was a break because it would have belonged to St. Bonaventure since it had the possession arrow in its favor.

Pollard converted a three-point play to tie it 34.

Two free throws by Smith gave Dayton a 36-35 edge with 17 minutes left — its first lead since 2-0.

Ouch: Pollard took another shot to the face and played most of the game with his chin bandaged.

The senior forward needed three stitches inside his mouth to close a wound from the Rhode Island game, and required medical attention again.

“It looked like they were getting ready to sew him up,” Miller said afterward. “He’s not happy.”

On fire: The Bonnies' Jaylen Adams had 35 points, going 8-for-14 from the field, 4-for-7 on 3's and 15-for-17 from the foul line. He's second in the A-10 in scoring with a 21.0 average.

“If he’s not the most unsung point guard in college basketball, I don’t know who it would be,” Miller said. “The game never feels like it’s over with him.”

Big crowds: The Flyers have averaged 12,983 fans through 14 home games and could set a single-season attendance mark. The record of 12,982 was set in the first season at UD Arena in 1969-70.

They have two games left: George Mason on Tuesday and VCU on March 1.

Coming up: After hosting George Mason at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dayton plays at Davidson at 9 p.m. Friday.


George Mason at Dayton, 7 p.m., Spectrum Sports TV, 1290

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