Freshman Smith has been ‘really, really’ good for Dayton

Point guard emerging as a star early in his career and has played better than ever in two games in Florida

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Kansas coach Bill Self saw Dayton Flyers freshman guard Malachi Smith doing an interview in the loading dock behind HP Fieldhouse and stopped to congratulated him on his performance Friday.

» PHOTOS: Dayton vs. Kansas

In his sixth college game, Smith held his own against some of the most experienced guards in the country, including the nation’s leading scorer, Ochai Agbaji, and helped engineer one of the biggest victories in Dayton history. The Flyers beat No. 4 Kansas 74-73 on a last-second shot by Mustapha Amzil.

“I feel good,” Smith said. “Coach AG (Anthony Grant) is starting to believe in me more, and that’s giving me the confidence to make plays.”

Smith scored 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting and led the team with six assists and five turnovers in 34 minutes He had an even better game Thursday in a 76-60 victory against the Miami Hurricanes, scoring 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting and tallying seven assists without a turnover.

Smith also hit one of the biggest shots of the season. His layup with 44 seconds left cut the Kansas lead to 73-72 and set the stage of Amzil’s shot as time expired.

“He’s been really really good,” Grant said. “We ask a lot of him. In a game like that, to go toe to toe with veteran guards and a team like Kansas, it shows a lot of character.”

Opposing viewpoint: Agbaji led Kansas with 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting. That was his second-lowest total of the season. He came into the game averaging 24.3 points.

“It was a game that was just up and down,” he said. “Really fast paced throughout the whole entire game. They were pressing. We were attacking so it was just up and down a lot. I was worn out, but I was just trying to keep going, keep pushing. But all in all it was just a poor performance by me and a lot of guys on our team, so I know we can all do better.”

Next tournament: Dayton will return to the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas in 2022. Kansas will also be there. It will be the third time in four years the teams have played in the same November tournament.

The field was announced Friday. It also includes Butler, BYU, North Carolina State, Southern California, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Dayton played in the tournament in 2018 and beat Butler in the first round before losing to Virginia and Oklahoma.

Other games: After losing in the first round to Dayton on Thursday, Miami (4-2) rebounded with a 69-63 victory against North Texas (2-3) in the consolation round Friday.

• Iona, coached by Rick Pitino, recorded the biggest upset of the first round Thursday, beating No. 10 Alabama 72-68. It was the first ever victory by a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference team against a top-10 team. The MAAC was 0-119 against top-10 teams. Pitino has defeated top-10 teams while coaching four different schools: Providence; Kentucky; Louisville; and Iona.

• Belmont (4-2) beat Drake 74-68 in the final game of the first round Thursday to advance to the semifinals against Iona. Belmont is one of four programs to win 20 or more games in the last 11 seasons. Kansas, Gonzaga and Oregon are the others.

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