>>> PREVIEW: Winthrop at Dayton
>>> WATCH: Miller happy with team’s direction
Now Dayton has one of its best senior classes in years — Davis, Smith and Charles Cooke, not to mention Pollard, who is expected to return to practice soon as he fights his way back from a thigh contusion — and once again the youngest part of the team is just as important. Davis lets that group know it all the time.
“I’m leaving here in a couple months,” Davis said. “I want to make sure the younger guys are ready to step into that role.”
The four sophomores — Miller, Mikesell, Xeyrius Williams and John Crosby — averaged 4.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per person in the first three games, while shooting 5 of 24 from 3-point range (20.8 percent) and 18 of 56 from the floor (32.1). In the three games in California, they averaged 7.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per person and made 12 of 26 shots from 3-point range (46.2) and 30 of 68 shots from the field (44.1).
“I’ve been saying it since the beginning of the season,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “Their development and progress will put us in a situation where we can trust nine, 10 guys. Unfortunately, we’re playing down bodies now. We don’t have the full arsenal, but with game repetition, with confidence, you’re starting to see some guys do things we see them do every day in practice. When you’re thrust into these opportunities, a guy like Xeyrius, you make the most of them. You can build off it. We need everybody. We need to continue to get John in there. We need better play from Darrell (Davis). But up and down the lineup, I was pleased with the progress of the guys.”
Dayton (4-2) finished 2-1 at the Wooden Legacy. Williams made the biggest strides. He averaged 12.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in the three games after averaging 0.6 and 3.3 rebounds in the first three games.
“X stepped up his game,” Davis said. “Over the summer, I was talking to him and Ryan and Sam and John and just telling them it’s going to be a big year for them. They’ve got to step up and help us out. Over the years, the legacy is the younger guys helping out the seniors. Now I’m a senior, and I look for X and the younger guys to help me out.”
Saturday's game: The Flyers know to be wary of Winthrop, their opponent at 2 p.m. Saturday at UD Arena.
The Eagles (4-2) hung with Florida State until the final eight minutes and lost 100-86 on the road on Nov. 18. One game later, they beat Illinois 84-80 in overtime on the road.
Keon Johnson, a 5-7 senior guard, missed the Florida State game with a foot injury but scored 38 against Illinois. He has scored eight points in the last two games, a 65-60 loss at home to New Hampsire and a 58-57 overtime victory at home against Furman on Wednesday.
Johnson averages 16.2 points per game. Xavier Cooks, a 6-8 junior forward, leads Winthrop with 17.8 points per game.
“They are one of the better offensive teams in the country,” Miller said. “They have two first-team all-conference players in their starting five with Cooks and Johnson. Johnson is a preseason player of the year. He’s a small jitterbug point guard who can really score the ball, similar to a guy we played against Portland who gave us a lot of problems. We’ve got to stop that.
“They also have a nightmare matchup with the Cooks kid. He’s 6-8 plus. He basically runs the point. To me, that’s going to be a very difficult game. Defensively, we have to get back. We’re going to have to try our best to contain the 3-point line. From our standpoint, we have to continue to run good offense. We got better on offense as the (Wooden Legacy) went, but we can’t shoot quick and let a team that plays that fast out in transition.”