Holmes helps Dayton set the tone early in A-10 opener against Duquesne

UD sophomore leads the nation with 38 dunks

DaRon Holmes II unveiled a new dance in the closing seconds of a 69-57 victory against Duquesne on Wednesday. He ended up with the ball after an in-bounds play and danced beside it as players left the court.

“Malachi (Smith) and Koby (Brea), the New Yorkers, they taught me it,” Holmes said, “and I’m trying to work on it.”

The Dayton Flyers (9-5) had reason to dance as they earned their best victory of the season. Duquesne (9-4) ranks 141st in the NCAA Evaluation Tool. That made this a Quad 3 victory for Dayton, whose first eight victories were of the Quad 4 variety.

No one’s going to put a Quad 3 victory on banner. This was merely the next step — and the fourth victory in a row — for Dayton on the road back to relevance after a 5-5 start and the first step on the way to competing for the Atlantic 10 Conference championship.

After one night and two games, Dayton and Davidson, who play at 2 p.m. Saturday in North Carolina, are tied for first place at 1-0. Davidson (8-5) won 57-43 at Fordham (12-2), which had the only better record than Duquesne in non-conference play in the A-10.

“It was a great opportunity to start A-10 play at home,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said, “and we wanted to make sure we did a good job setting the tone today. I thought our guys did that early in the game.”

Dayton opened the game with a 10-0 run, making its first four shots and scoring on its first five possessions. Holmes scored six of his 22 points in that stretch.

On Dayton’s first possession, Holmes caught a pass from Mustapha Amzil on the left side of the paint, dribbled once, faked a shot and then went up and under the basket to lay it in on the right side. His second basket was a wide-open dunk after Toumani Camara lofted a pass over two defenders to Holmes near the basket. Then Holmes gave Dayton a 10-0 lead with a putback dunk after a missed layup by R.J. Blakney.

Holmes scored in a variety of way all night, making 9 of 12 field goals and 4 of 4 free throws. This was the first time in his career he shot at least four free throws and made them all. He’s shooting 64.6% at the line this season.

Holmes had several highlight-reel plays in the second half as Dayton pushed a 37-32 halftime lead into double digits. At the 15:51 mark, he blocked a shot and then ran the fast break and dunked after a 360-degree spin move to give Dayton a 46-36 lead.

“That was fun,” Holmes said. “I enjoyed that move. I just spun, and then I’m right next to the basket.”

Holmes had another highlight-reel move in the second half. He dribbled near the free-throw line, spun left as the defender fell and made a turnaround jump shot.

Holmes lead the nation with 38 dunks — no one else has more than 34 — but is showing more and more how many different ways he can score. He leads Dayton with 18.0 points per game, which would be the highest average since Obi Toppin averaged 20.0 in 2019-20.

“DaRon’s best basketball is ahead of him,” Grant said. “He’s a young guy. He’s only played less than 50 games of his college career. I think the more he plays, the more he works at it, he’s just going to continue to blossom. I think he’s got a really bright future ahead of him. It was great to see some of the things that he was able to put on display. His coaches, his teammates, we’ve got a lot of confidence in what he’s able to do, and we think he’s just scratching the surface of where he could be.”

Holmes also grabbed 13 rebounds, blocked a shot and recorded one assist. He had two turnovers, which wasn’t bad on a night when the team committed 19. The Flyers had 14 in the first half alone. Their 28.3% turnover percentage was their second-worst number of the season.

Dayton overcame its turnover numbers in part by making 8 of 20 3-pointers (40%). It has shot 40% or better four times in the last six games. When it recored a season-high 24 turnovers in a 60-52 loss at UNLV, it made 8 of 26 3-pointers (30.8%).

Blakney made 3 of 4 3-pointers and scored a season-high 17 points. Mustapha Amzil made 3 of 5 and scored 13.

Grant saw fatigue as a factor in some of the turnovers. This was Dayton’s first game in eight days. The players returned to campus Sunday, had a shoot-around that night at UD Arena and then practiced Monday and Tuesday.

The Flyers had only eight players available for the second straight game. Malachi Smith, Kobe Elvis, Richard Amaefule and walk-ons Atticus Schuler and Ty Locklear sat on the bench in sweatsuits because of injuries.

Four of the five starters played between 34 and 36 minutes, while Toumani Camara was limited to 26 minutes because of foul trouble. Duquesne, on the other hand, used 12 players.

“As we’re currently constructed, because of some injuries, we’re asking guys to do a little bit more” Grant said. “We’ve also got to learn to play to our strengths and stay in character in terms of who we are and not put ourselves in a position where we’re doing things that we shouldn’t. So we’ve got to got to do a better job of taking care of the basketball.”


Dayton at Davidson, 2 p.m., ESPN+, 1290, 95.7

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