He was remembering birthday parties past.
“I’d take cupcakes to school or have ice cream and cake with the family,” said Kendall Pollard, who turned 22 Friday. “I went to Chuck E. Cheese’s, things like that.”
“Naah, no Chuck E. Cheese’s,” the Dayton Flyers 6-foot-6 senior grinned. “But last year me and the guys went bowling. I try to do stuff everyone can do, not just the 21 and up people.”
And that’s the formula he and his Flyers teammates used at UD Arena in what he said would be “a birthday I’ll remember forever.”
In what Dayton coach Archie Miller aptly described as “just a fantastic college basketball game,” UD outlasted a good Rhode Island team, 67-64.
It was the 12-3 Flyers’ best victory of the season as far as RPI rankings are concerned.
“For our guys it was a heck of a statement as far as team togetherness and toughness,” Miller said. “Our guys really hung in there. We have some guys playing really, really hard right now.”
Two of them were point guard Scoochie Smith, who led the Flyers with 21 points and took over parts of the game late, and Pollard, who almost lived up to the sign being waved in the Red Scare student section all game.
It read: “KP’s Feeling 22.”
That wasn’t just his age this game, it was nearly his point total. He finished with 18 to go along with five rebounds, two steals, a blocked shot and an assist.
“Pollard had a real good birthday,” Smith said afterward. “He got a win against a real good team. That’s what we had talked about all week, going 2-0 on the week and we did.”
The week began Tuesday with a 90-74 victory at St. Bonaventure, which is a tough place to play.
And 10-5 Rhode Island may be the most formidable foe the Flyers will see in the league.
The Rams led the entire first half, going up 10 with 8:57 left.
At times early the Flyers looked like a boxer caught on the ropes by a wind-milling challenger.
In that early onslaught Pollard at least was a counter puncher. Although his shots weren’t dropping early — at one point he was 1 for 7 – he played aggressively and gave his teammates something to feed off of.
“He is a key leader for us. He’s the confidence in this team,” Miller said. “He’s the guy everyone looks to. When he says something it means a lot.
“Having him back (from an injury that sidelined him the first six games) means a lot. He’s played his first three conference games like an all-conference player.”
After going 2-for-9 from the floor, Pollard had four points at halftime.
And that’s when he made a key adjustment in the dressing room.
He shed his new blue birthday shoes.
He had worn them special for the game.
Inside the tongue of the left shoe he had printed his birth date: 01.06.95.
Inside the right, he put his time of birth: 12:01 a.m.
Unfortunately the shoes — a picture of which he posted on Twitter — looked better than they worked.
“I was slipping all over so I switched them,” he said.
In the second half he made six of his seven shots, including a driving layup in the final 30 seconds that put UD ahead 65-62.
“That was a clutch play,” he admitted. “It kind of put a nail in it, I guess.”
The Rams closed to 66-64 and had the ball in the final seconds, but Jarvis Garrett missed a short jumper because Pollard had skied up in front of him and forced him to alter the shot.
Rhode Island had one last chance to score and threw a length-of-the-court pass with one second left and again Pollard defended it.
“I had to jump up high,” he said. “I couldn’t let them catch it and turn around and nail a Christian Laettner shot.”
Miller had high praise for Pollard afterward:
“He’s doing really well and he’s doing it the old-fashioned way because he didn’t have an offseason. He basically had to get in game shape in games.
“The way he looked tonight, he doesn’t look anything like he did a month ago.”
Of course not.
He’s 22 now.
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