Mikesell emerges as Dayton Flyers’ most reliable free-throw shooter

Redshirt junior forward made 8 of 8 in victory at St. Bonaventure

Ryan Mikesell stepped to the free-throw line eight times Saturday at St. Bonaventure and made every shot, using the same routine each time. He caught the ball from the official, held it briefly in his left hand, bounced it once with his right hand and then began his shooting motion with his heels rising from the floor. He stayed on his toes until the shots fell through the net.

Four of Mikesell's free throws came in the second overtime as the Dayton Flyers escaped the Reilly Center with an 89-86 victory. While he ranks last among the five starters in free-throw attempts, the redshirt junior forward from St. Henry High School has emerged as Dayton's most reliable free-throw shooter, making 29 of 35 (82.9 percent).

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Dayton coach Anthony Grant would like to see Mikesell’s free-throw shooting become more of a weapon for the team.

“We’ve got to get Ryan to the free-throw line more,” Grant said. “He was aggressive the other day and got himself to the free-throw line. He and I talked just a few days ago in terms of him being able to do more of that for us. It’s a good sign.”

While Dayton ranks among the nation’s best teams in field-goal percentage (fourth, 50.6) and even higher if you only count two-point attempts (second, 59.9), it is a below-average team in free-throw shooting percentage.

The Flyers shoot 68.1 percent (222 of 326) at the line. They rank 242nd in the country out of 353 teams. The national average is 70.1.

Dayton isn’t far from the average. If it had made seven more free throws in the first 18 games, it would be shooting 70.2 percent. Of course, even seven free throws, made at the right time, could make a difference in a game or two.

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Mikesell, Jordan Davis (29 of 39, 74.4) and Trey Landers (42 of 57, 73.7) all shoot above average. Josh Cunningham (53 of 91, 58.2), Jalen Crutcher (31 of 45, 68.9). Obi Toppin (21 of 31, 67.7) and Dwayne Cohill (12 of 18, 66.7) all fall below the average.

Mikesell knows how to improve at the line. He shot 46.2 percent (6 of 13) as a freshman and 68.0 (34 of 50) as a sophomore.

“I’m always talking to (teammates) at the free-throw line,” Mikesell said. “The biggest thing is confidence and having a belief in yourself up there, like any basketball player will tell you. You’ve shot thousands of free throws, so (it’s about) just going up there and having a belief in yourself and preparation. That’s the biggest thing when it comes down to free throws. It’s the mental aspect. We work on free throws all the time. It’s not like we don’t practice them.”

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Dayton shot 73.1 percent at the free-throw line last season, mostly because of Darrell Davis, who made 105 of 120 (87.5 percent). That was its best percentage since 2011-12 (77.8). Dayton’s all-time average, coincidentally, is 68.1, the same number it is shooting this season.

Mikesell said the team practices free throws during different segments of practice.

“(Grant is) big on finding your routine and sticking with it,” Mikesell said. “Don’t overthink it. If you miss one, make the next shot. Try not to miss that same shot twice. That’s the biggest thing. Keep at it. It’s a long season. We’ve still got the second half of A-10 play to go.”


Dayton at Fordham, 2 p.m., ESPN+, AM 1290 and News 95.7 WHIO

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