Flyers clinch winning regular season with 16th victory
Christian Wilson banked in a 3-pointer in front of the Dayton Flyers bench and held three fingers in the air as he got back on defense. Seventy seven seconds later, Drew Swerlein dribbled into the paint, planted one foot, spun around and lofted a fadeaway jump shot over a Duquesne defender for the first made field goal his career.
It’s either a great night or an awful night when the walks-ons score because they punctuate dominant victories or relieve starters in blowout defeats.
Wilson and Swerlein had the honor of capping a 75-54 victory against Duquesne on Wednesday at UD Arena. They have now combined for seven of the 1,646 points the team has scored in 24 games. That doesn’t mean their contributions to the team’s success are small.
“A lot of what they do goes unseen,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said, “but those guys do a great job of getting our team prepared for their opponent.”
Dayton (16-8, 8-3) was well prepared again to beat Duquesne, a team it routed 72-52 on Jan. 15 in Pittsburgh. This game was even more lopsided than that one most of the way as the Flyers built a 30-point lead in the second half before resting their starters at the end.
In most ways, the game went as expected because the Dukes (6-15. 1-8), who have now lost eight straight games, are in last place in the Atlantic 10 Conference. In some ways, it was different. Here’s how the game stood out from the previous 23:
1. Dayton’s shooting percentage: The Flyers made 33 of 55 field-goal attempts (60%). They had not hit that number this season. They did not hit it last season. They shot 60% or better four times in the 29-2 season of 2019-20, five times in the 2018-19 season and five times in Grant’s first season, 2017-18.
“This was a much-needed win for us just coming off that loss,” Dayton guard Koby Brea said. “We were able to learn a lot from that game and move in the right direction.”
Kobe Elvis led Dayton with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting after scoring 20 points in each of the last two games. He made 3 of 4 3-pointers and has made 7 of 10 in the last two games.
2. Elijah Weaver’s contributions: After missing four games with a wrist injury, the fourth-year guard scored seven points on 3-of-9 shooting in just under 18 minutes.
“We need him a lot,” Brea said. “He can play the one, two or three, so to have another ball-handler at those three positions is very helpful for us.”
3. The bench’s scoring: Eleven players scored for Dayton. Kaleb Washington and Zimi Nwokeji, who each played the last 4 minutes, 33 seconds, were the only players who saw action and didn’t score. Dayton’s reserves outscored the Duquesne bench 30-15.
3. One giant run: Dayton outscored Duquesne 35-7 in just under 15 minutes to turn a 19-18 deficit into a 53-26 lead. The spurt began midway through the first half and carried into the second half.
One of the reserves, Moulaye Sissoko scored six straight points in a two-minute stretch early in the run.
“Mou, he’s a problem,” Brea said. “He’s not really getting much opportunities, but when he gets in the game, he’s efficient. He gives us plays we need on both ends of the floor. He’s a beast.”
4. Season milestone: The victory means Dayton will finish the regular season with a winning record. The worst it can finish is 16-15. The best it can finish is 23-8.
With seven games remaining, Dayton is tied for fourth place with Virginia Commonwealth (15-7, 8-3), which beat Rhode Island 73-64 on Tuesday. Both teams trail first-place Davidson (20-3, 10-1) by two games. Davidson has won seven A-10 games by six points or less and avoided an upset Wednesday by beating Saint Joseph’s 73-67 in overtime.
The Flyers now prepare for a three-day stretch that includes a game at 2 p.m. Saturday against George Washington (5-5, 9-13) at UD Arena and a road game at 9 p.m. Monday against Rhode Island (12-10, 3-7).
Dayton was able to limit the minutes of its key players Wednesday, so that should be help with the quick turnaround. Everyone played under 28 minutes.
“It’s always good when we take care of business like we did tonight,” Grant said, “and give some of the young guys an opportunity to go out there and get experience and to see different things. We’ve got seven regular-season games left. Now is when you want to see your team playing its best basketball.”
George Washington at Dayton, 2 p.m., Spectrum News 1, 1290, 95.7