Improving free-throw shooting key for Dayton Flyers

Dayton fans cheer during an exhibition game vs. Findlay at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
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Dayton fans cheer during an exhibition game vs. Findlay at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Turnovers, rebounding also stats to watch this season

Editor’s note: The Dayton Flyers start the season Nov. 11. In the 26 days leading to the opener, the Dayton Daily News will explore different aspects of the program in the A-Z Guide to Dayton Basketball. This is the 24th installment. X: X-Factors.

Scoochie Smith revealed a new celebration of sorts to replace the dab Friday during an exhibition game against Findlay. He formed his hand into the shape of a phone and held it up to his ear as if he was making a call. After the game, Smith said he was calling Joey Gruden.

Why he’s calling the walk-on guard Gruden on the bench and where that idea came from is a question that has yet to be answered.

The Flyers do all sorts of fun things during the season. They still walk down the tunnel to the arena with their arms around each other, singing the whole way and making enough noise to let everyone know they’re coming. The players on the end of the bench still have plenty of fun during key runs. It’s not quite on the level of Monmouth, but they’re a photogenic group.

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That kind of off-the-court camaraderie can pay dividends over a long season, but it’s what the Flyers do on the court that matters most. Here’s a look at three X-factors that could determine Dayton’s success. They struggled at times in each of these areas last season.

1. Free-throw shooting: The Flyers shot 66.8 percent at the line last season. That was their lowest percentage since Archie Miller's first season in 2011-12 (66.4). Dayton shot 70.5 in 2012-13, 70.8 in 2013-14 and 67.7 in 2014-15.

In A-10 play, Dayton shot 67.3 percent, which ranked 12th among 14 teams.

The Flyers did make a big jump last season in the number of free throws they attempted. They made 484 of 725. That’s the second-most free throws made and attempted in the Miller era. They made 589 of 832 in 2013-14.

Of the returning starters, Charles Cooke was the best free-throw shooter (69.6 percent). Smith’s accuracy fell from 75.5 to 66.7. Kyle Davis’s percentage dropped from 70.7 to 69.0. Kendall Pollard made 58 percent of his free throws as a sophomore and 55.1 as a junior.

On Friday, in a 76-69 victory, Dayton 54.8 percent (17 of 31).

“Shooting in general is a concern,” Miller said. “Especially the last four minutes, being able to ice that game and make it three or four possessions and not doing it, if you just watch our team, we’re not a confident shooting team early. I think we’re going to get better as the season goes as far as guys having confidence they can take it. But at the line, it’s concentration; 17 of 31 is not good enough.”

2. Turnovers: Dayton averaged 12.9 turnovers last season. That was 1.4 more than 2014-15 and 1.0 more than 2013-14.

Two seasons ago, Dayton ranked 96th in the country in turnover percentage, which is turnovers divided by possessions. Last season, it ranked 219th. Turnover percentage is one of the four key factors in winning, according to KenPom.com.

3. Offensive rebounding: According to KenPom's numbers, this has been a weak spot for the Flyers the last two seasons. They ranked 337th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage two seasons ago. That's not surprising because they played with a lineup lacking anyone taller than 6-6 for most of the season.

Last season, Dayton ranked 205th in offensive rebounding percentage. It made up for that on the defensive end, ranking sixth in the country.