Dayton is undefeated in the Chapel Blue jerseys after beating SMU
DaRon Holmes II kept the secret. He posed for photos at UD Arena late Wednesday night in the new Chapel Blue uniforms, which paid homage to a much-loved color from the University of Dayton’s past, and didn’t tell anyone — even his teammates — about the new look for nearly 24 hours.
Then on Thursday evening, about 30 minutes before UD revealed the new uniforms on social media, the sophomore forward Holmes sat with the rest of the Dayton Flyers in a team meeting room at the Cronin Center. Two of his teammates, Toumani Camara and Kobe Elvis, had been let in on the secret minutes earlier. Coach Anthony Grant opened the door, and they entered dressed in the new jerseys.
“Back in the day, we called these the go-get-ems,” Grant said. “You don’t lose in the go-get-ems, especially at home, OK. So we’ve got to bring the fire tomorrow.”
Dayton did bring the fire in a 74-62 victory against Southern Methodist on Friday at UD Arena. The uniforms, not to mention a sellout crowd of 13,407, sparked them to their first 2-0 start since the 29-2 season of 2019-20 and their first victory against the Mustangs (1-1) since 2007 after losses the last two seasons.
“We love these uniforms,” Holmes said.
“It’s embarrassing to lose in new jerseys,” forward Mustapha Amzil said. “We had to get that win. I think it’s a nice color. Look good, play good.”
Hundreds of students waited in a line that snaked around UD Arena about two hours before the game because they wanted the Chapel Blue T-shirts being handed out the door. While red was still the dominant color throughout the arena, the Red Scare student section matched the colors worn by the players on the court.
The victory should keep No. 24 Dayton in the Associated Press top 25 for at least another week. The new poll will come out Monday, one day before the Flyers play their first road game against UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev. That will be the next big test for the Flyers, who routed Lindenwood 73-46 on Monday and then pulled away from SMU in the final minutes with the kind of performance that bodes well for their future in the 2022-23 season.
The first two games answered many questions Dayton fans had going into the season. Here are four things we learned:
1. Holmes is once again living up to the hype: After scoring 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting in the opener, the sophomore forward had 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting as well as five blocks and seven rebounds in the second game.
Holmes played all but one minute against SMU and made one of the key baskets in Dayton’s game-ending 15-3 run in the final five minutes. Holmes spun to the baseline, faked a shot as one defender jumped past him and muscled a layup over another defender to give Dayton a 68-62 lead with 1:29 to play.
“I would say the thing that impressed me about him and our team was they stayed poised,” Grant said. “This was a back-and-forth, highly-contested game. At one point, in the second half, we had a 13-point lead, and they erased it. For DaRon to be in his second year of college basketball with a lot of young guys around him, I think our guys understood what they needed to do. They didn’t get rattled. We showed great poise as a group. Certainly DaRon, we went to him a lot. I thought he was aggressive to score. I thought he read the defense and made some outstanding passes to his teammates that led to open looks.”
2. Mustapha Amzil has stepped up as a scorer: With Malachi Smith and Koby Brea still sidelined, Dayton needed someone to replace the 17.4 points they combined to average last season. Amzil averaged 5.6 points a year ago. In the first two games, he has 14 points and 20 points while making 4 of 9 3-pointers and 14 of 15 free throws.
Amzil’s 3-pointer with 2:12 to play gave Dayton a 66-62 lead. He was then fouled on a 3-point attempt with 48 seconds remaining and made all three free throws to put the game away.
“He made some big plays for us down the stretch,” Grant said. “Maybe at one point (last season) there was talk he wasn’t shooting the ball well, but Mustapha has got supreme confidence, and he puts the work in. We believe in him. He believes in himself.”
Credit: David Jablonski
3. R.J. Blakney delivered another clutch moment: The third-year guard made a game-tying 3-pointer in overtime in an 85-82 victory against Mississippi State as a freshman. His alley-oop dunk in the final seconds gave Dayton a 55-53 victory at Richmond last season. In this game, he made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 4:51 to play. It came 14 seconds after SMU, which trailed 47-34 eight minutes into the second half, tied the game at 59-59.
Blakney made the 3 after missing his first three 3-point attempts of the game. He finished with six points. The shot came after Holmes passed out of the post and Toumani Camara threw a pick on SMU guard Zach Nutall, who was guarding Blakney.
“Anthony drew up a nice play, and Blakney hit the 3 at the top of the key,” first-year SMU coach Rob Lanier said on his postgame radio show. “It was a hell of a call, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the ball’s got to go in. It did, and it’s a credit to that kid. I was proud of our guys in a lot of ways. To be down double digits in this atmosphere in both halves and to each time claw back into the game, it was a display of character and toughness.”
4. Mike Sharavjamts continues to produce: The freshman from Mongolia scored 10 points for the second straight game. He made 4 of 10 3-pointers in the first week of the season.
UD students in the Red Scare section held a Mongolian flag after the game as the players, including Sharavjamts, slapped hands with them before heading to the locker room.
“As a true freshman, to be able to go out in the game and do what he did, it’s really impressive,” Grant said. “He did some really good things for us tonight. Every game, you can see he’s learning what it takes to play college basketball. Last year, we had a team full of guys that were going through that for the first time. Now he’s going through it for the first time. I think he’s done a really good job of learning and competing and understanding what he’s here to do.”
Dayton at UNLV, 11 p.m., CBS Sports Network, 1290, 95.7