The new-look Dayton Flyers feature a group of sophomores who have been thrust into prominent roles because of injuries. A year ago, the group rode the roller coaster, showing glimpses of talent one night and then sitting the bench the next game. Their minutes soared and dipped, seemingly with no rhyme or reason.
The jury’s still out on how good the group can be, but one player has stepped to the forefront at the Wooden Legacy. Forward Xeyrius Williams scored a career-high 15 points Thursday in an 80-78 loss to Nebraska, and he followed that with 14 points in an 84-74 victory over Portland on Friday at Titan Gym.
“It really sets a standard I have to hold myself to,” Williams said. “I can do it. I can play like that every game.”
Williams made 5 of 9 shots from the field and 3 of 5 3-pointers in the first game and 5 of 8 shots from the field and 1 of 3 3-pointers in the second game. Williams scored five straight points with under seven minutes to play after Portland had cut Dayton’s lead to 62-55.
“We had a big summer working on our shots,” Williams said. “It’s just staying in the gym and getting the routine down. I put a lot of time in the gym, so it’s nice to see it pay off.”
Cooke stars: There’s no question Charles Cooke is Dayton’s best player, and he continues to prove it. He led the Flyers with 20 points. He made 7 of 13 shots in 30 minutes.
Cooke scored six points in less than 90 seconds early in the second half as Dayton pushed its lead to 53-40.
Better start: Poor starts plagued the Flyers in the last three games. They jumped out to a 16-6 lead in this game. Sam Miller, Scoochie Smith and Cooke had 3-pointers in the first six minutes.
“We wanted to get off the mat after a loss,” Cooke said. “Starting the game off right was our main focus.”
Next game: Dayton (3-2) will play New Mexico (4-1) at 2 p.m. Sunday in the fifth-place game. The Lobos beat Cal State Northridge 105-89 Friday.
“I know coach (Craig) Neal does a great job with his guys,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “They’ve always done a great job offensively getting their guys great shots. Tim Williams is a guy we recruited a few years back. I know he’s a load inside. They’ve got good size. Elijah Brown is a big-time scorer. They’re a good offensive team. I think they mix their defenses up pretty well. Their a Mountain West contender. For us, this is a great test.”
Miller’s comments: The Flyers avoided their first three-game losing streak since January 2014.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Miller said. “Any time you’re in this type of event situation, you can have a win or a loss, but you have a very short amount of time to figure out what you did right and wrong and then you have to move forward, and I thought we did that. Our guys handled a tough loss, a disappointing loss. It was not so much that we lost the game but everyone understands in our program what we have to be about. On the defensive side, I thought we were much better to start the game. That carried us all the way through.”
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