Game No. 7 recap: Dayton 73, Eastern Michigan 64

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Kyle Davis soars to the hoop on Saturday. David Jablonski/Staff

Have you bought your UD-themed Christmas present yet? Here’s one more plug for Larry Hansgen’s “True Team” book.

For fun, I did an eBay search for ideas. You can buy a 1961 UD-DePaul game program for $9.99 or a 1968 Dayton vs. Loyola South program for $19.99. You can even buy a coin celebrating Don Donoher’s 353rd coaching victory.

The Flyers gave their fans another victory Saturday, one everyone figured was coming. Dayton beat Eastern Michigan 73-64 (photos here). That’s four straight victories for the Flyers (6-1), two in a row against the Mid-American Conference with another game coming Tuesday against Bowling Green.

Here are five things we learned:

1. The Flyers like to make things interesting.

For the second game in a row, they blew a double-digit lead in the second half and then pulled away in the final minutes.

A 9-0 run beginning at the 5:28 mark of the second half carried the Flyers to a 73-64 victory against the Eagles, the second of three straight Mid-American Conference opponents.

Eastern Michigan’s zone defense gave the Flyers fits, but Dayton continued to attack the basket and scored 26 points, almost a third of their total, at the free-throw line.

“I’m really pleased with our guys,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “We knew this game was going to be very difficult when we scheduled the game. The zone was a big part of why we scheduled it. It’s something that can really improve you right away in terms of understanding you’re going to see some zone during the year.”

2. Kendall Pollard is fun to watch but frustrating as well.

The sophomore continues to produce: scoring a career high with 16 points and matching a career high with nine rebounds. As I’ve said before, he might be the most exciting player on the team to watch because of how hard he attacks the rim. He’s a 3-point play waiting to happen, if he could just convert the free throw after the layup and foul. He made 6-of-14 free throws Saturday.

Pollard is shooting 46 percent at the line. That’s a big improvement over last season when he shot 33 percent.

“It’s very frustrating,” Pollard said. “When I miss free throws, they stick with me for at least five plays. Then I might go back to the free-throw line within three plays, so it’s still with me from the last free throws. It’s all mental. I’ve just got to go up there and concentrate and make them.”

Miller: “He’s not a good free-throw shooter. He knows it. I know it. All 13,000 people here know it. Here’s the thing: he can only go up. He’s got to continue to work, and we’ll continue to work with him.”

3. Pollard’s free throw struggles bring up an interesting dilemma.

Can UD keep him on the floor late in close games? This is an email I got from a reader Saturday.

“There is no denying that Pollard is the best athlete on the team and brings much needed energy into the game when he comes in. However, during the last 90 seconds or so during a game when the flyers are 10 or fewer points points ahead of their opponent, and everyone knows that the opponent will be fouling, it’s my opinion that no Flyer who shoots less than 50% from the free throw line should be in the game. Yet Pollard was in there at crunch time against Miami and against Eastern Michigan. I believe that this decision is going to cost them a “W” or two down the road, and I just don’t understand Coach Miller’s strategy on this.”

4. The Flyers were fortunate to avoid an upset Saturday because not everyone did.

If you think Dayton can take these non-conference games for granted, consider this score: Michigan lost 72-70 to the New Jersey Institute of Technology on Saturday. From the AP story:

Not even NJIT’s coach expected his team to win at Michigan. Just ask him.

“Honestly, this wasn’t in my game plan,” Jim Engles said. “Coming into the season, I sort of penciled this one in as an ‘L.’ I have to readjust my whole process here, as to, ‘We just beat Michigan. I don’t know, maybe we should be in the Top 25.’

“I don’t really know what to say.”

How about this: The team that played for the national title less than two years ago just lost to a commuter school whose “arena” doubles as a campus fitness center.

5. Dayton needs to build its NCAA resume now.

The Flyers play at Arkansas on Saturday, and it’s their best chance in December to record the type of victory that will impress the NCAA tournament selection committee. It doesn’t look like the A-10 schedule will provide as many good RPI wins as last year, at least considering how things are going in the A-10 right now.

The A-10 has won 60.6 percent of its non-conference games. That’s down from 71 percent last season. The conference had another bad day Saturday with scores like this: No. 10 Villanova 74, Saint Joseph’s 46; No. 7 Virginia 74, (RV) VCU 57; and No. 8 Wichita State 81, Saint Louis 52.

St. Bonaventure (6-1) got a decent win, 80-70 at Ohio. Davidson (6-1) continues to win. It beat Stetson 90-59. Rhode Island beat Southern Miss 75-43. But the A-10 has only one win over a ranked opponent.

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