Kevin Dillard, the most veteran member of the Red Scare, led the team onto the court at the Capital Center on Friday for the first round of The Basketball Tournament. Stands full of the Flyer Faithful then began a “Let’s Go Flyers” chant.
The Dayton fans flood arenas throughout the winter, and they were an easy sell on basketball in July as they watched some of their favorite players from recent years wear the red and white again in a quest to win $2 million in the winner-takes-all event. The Red Scare, coached by former Flyer Damon Goodwin, the longtime head coach at Capital University, didn’t disappoint.
The Red Scare led from start to finish in a 108-82 victory against The Region, a team made up of players from northwest Indiana and the Chicago area. There’s little doubt the crowd helped Dayton just as it did four years ago in the NCAA tournament in Columbus
“I got goosebumps,” said Vee Sanford, one of four members of the 2014 Elite Eight team on the roster. “It reminded me of being at UD Arena. It felt like a home game for us. It was big time.”
Sanford’s former teammate, Devin Oliver, who led the Red Scare with 27 points, said he got the same special feeling running onto the court for the first time as he did leaving the tunnel at UD Arena.
“I haven’t been able to recreate that feeling until today,” said Oliver, who will play in the top league in France next year just like Sanford. “It was great. I think it helped us push through today.”
Vee Sanford said he got goosebumps running onto the court in front of Dayton fans for the first time in five years. pic.twitter.com/WZExa2EpcL
The Red Scare will play Mid-American Unity, a team of former MAC players, in the second round at noon Saturday at The Capital Center. If the Red Scare advances, it will play in the Columbus Regional final at noon Sunday. The Saturday game and the Sunday game will be televised on ESPN.
Everyone on the Red Scare’s seven-man team scored.
Oliver scored his 27 points on 8-of-15 shooting. He was 8-of-10 in the first half and made 6 of 7 3-pointers.
“Every day I’m in the gym,” Oliver said. “Every day I’m shooting. More than anything, it was the fans. When I walked out there, it was like, ‘Let’s go.’”
Sanford scored 20 points. Kyle Davis scored 19. Kevin Dillard had 15 points and a team-high six assists. Marion Local graduate Ryan Bruns, the only non-Flyer on the team, scored 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting and made 5 of 6 free throws.
Darrell Davis scored eight points. Kendall Pollard had six points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Pollard said former Dayton coach Archie Miller, who coached all six of the former Flyers on the team, was watching the game on ESPN3 and texted him right after the game to tell him he was still running over people. Pollard was whistled for a charge late in the game as he tried to score the game-clinching basket during the Elam Ending.
There were few tense moments in the game for the Red Scare after it built a 7-0 lead. Oliver started the scoring with a 3-pointer. Kyle Davis then scored four straight points.
“Anytime you start the game shooting that percentage in the first quarter, you’re off to a great start,” said Goodwin, a 1986 Dayton graduate who has been the head coach at Capital since 1994. “These guys were ready to play. These guys were smart. We only met for an hour or two. We had a couple of wrinkles, and they did it well. It was a great start for us.”
The Red Scare shot 62 percent as a team and led 62-41 at the break. It ended the half on an 8-0 run in the last 2:24.
The Region didn’t make a serious run in the second half, and Dayton rested Oliver and Sanford for much of the fourth quarter.
The chemistry of the team impressed Goodwin.
“They obviously know each other, the core of this team,” he said. “I was proud of Ryan Bruns. I thought he was a little nervous the first few minutes, but after that, he played a pretty good game for us, so that was big, and having Kevin, that extra guy. He just showed up an hour before the game. We were teaching him a couple of our wrinkles before the game. I thought they did a great job.”