Game No. 16 recap: Dayton 61, La Salle 50

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Dayton players celebrate during a run against La Salle. David Jablonski/Staff

The Flyers are playing so well, I’m spending a lot of time poring over the media guide. When was the last time they did this? When was the last time they did that?

Of course, Dayton’s sports information director Doug Hauschild does a lot of that work for me. He tells us Dayton is off to its first 4-0 start since 2003-04. With a 61-50 victory over La Salle on Wednesday at UD Arena, this is Dayton’s first 14-2 start since 2008-09.

Delving a little deeper, this is Dayton’s fourth 4-0 start since it joined the A-10 before the 1995-96 season. This is the first time since the 1997-98 season it has won the first four games by double digits, and as far as I can tell, it’s only the second time since the 1955-56 season, it has won its first four games in January by double digits.

Anyway, it was an interesting night at UD Arena last evening. Here are five things to take away from the game.

1. The Flyers can handle almost anything, but probably not an injury to their leading scorer and only senior.

Dayton played well when Jordan Sibert left the game with an apparent knee injury with 10 minutes to go. He did return but was limping up the tunnel to the locker room after the game. It’s hard to imagine they maintain this level of playing without Sibert. The good news is it appeared after the game he would be OK.

Here’s an excerpt from my game story.

“He seems to be fine,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “He finished the game. He’ll do some more testing tomorrow with the medical team. They did give him a clear to go. My hope is he’ll be OK. I’m sure he’ll be very sore coming off this type of a game. In general, for our whole team right now, body maintenance is a big deal as we continue to mow through these games.”

“Whatever they throw at us, we’ll deal with it,” he said.

According to a Tweet from WHIO’s John Bedell, Sibert was hurting before the game:

During warmups before the game, Sibert came into in the tunnel past me, grimaced, held his L knee, looked at a trainer and said “my knee”… Not sure if it’s related to what just happened. But something seemed to be up with that same knee before tip for Sibert. Let’s hope he’s OK.

Meanwhile, the news on Detwon Rogers continues to be wait and see. He was on the bench in uniform and warmed up but didn’t play. Miller seems in no hurry to get him into the game. He said he hasn’t had enough practice time to play, but could play at some point down the line.

2. Scoochie Smith continues to play excellent basketball.

Archie Miller praised Smith’s development all offseason, and after somewhat of a slow start, Smith has lived up to the hype. He had 16 points, four assists and two turnovers against La Salle and hit two big baskets after La Salle had cut Dayton’s lead to 44-42 midway through the second half.

Tom Archdeacon wrote about Smith last night;

Dyshawn Pierre boiled the game down to one simple truth:

“As Scoochie goes, we all go. We feed off him.”

The Dayton Flyers forward was talking about Scoochie Smith, the team’s sophomore point guard with the jazzman goatee, the nickname his grandpa gave him as a kid back in the Bronx and those trademark long black tights that cover his legs.

“I do it to get my knees warm,” he explained with a shrug. “My knees just don’t get as hot as the rest of my body. This gets my knees going too.”

The rest of his body – particularly those hands that consistently steal the ball from the opposition and make him the best passer on the team and one of the more accurate 3-point shooters in the Atlantic 10 — were as hot as could be in the second half Wednesday night against La Salle at UD Arena.

The Flyers trailed 25-23 at halftime, but in a span of less than four minutes early in the second half, Smith scored 10 points, made a great bounce pass assist to Pierre, who drove the baseline for an easy layup, and then picked the pocket of guard Khalid Lewis at midcourt to create his own easy basket.

3. Dayton’s defense getting better and better.

From my second story last night:

The Flyers have gotten a lot of press during their seven-game winning streak for their shooting, but their defense has been better than ever. La Salle scored 15.1 points below its season average.

The Flyers began the day with the best field-goal percentage defense in the Atlantic 10 Conference (38.8). In A-10 only stats, they led the league in scoring defense (58 points per game). That number dropped to 56 with this game.

“We don’t talk about offense a whole lot,” Miller said. “That’s the one thing all of our players would say. Regardless of what we try to do offensively or how many shots go in the basket, the only thing we’re really consumed with right now is our intensity level, our effort, our concentration. We have so many holes that if they’re not all intact, the game could flip quick. We have a 19-16 lead, Kendall fouls, boom the game changes. We’ve got to be very smart.”

4. La Salle was not good.

The Explorers were coming off their best victory of the season. They beat George Washington, one of the hottest teams in the A-10, in their previous game. But that La Salle team didn’t show up. It tried to go inside almost every possession in the first half with limited success, though it led 25-23 at halftime.

The Explorers looked out of sorts throughout the second half and turned it over nine times after halftime, shooting 36 percent from the field.

Here’s the La Salle angle from Philadelphia Inquirer:

La Salle (9-8, 1-3 Atlantic Ten) limited Dayton (14-2, 3-0) to 35 percent shooting before halftime. But in the second half, La Salle drew bad fouls and allowed points under screens as Dayton shot 64 percent.

It was again a tale of two defenses, a theme that has plagued the inconsistent Explorers all season.

“They deserve a lot of credit, but we deserve a lot of blame,” La Salle coach John Giannini said. “We’re the strangest defensive team I’ve ever seen. We will hold people to the 30s or we’ll give up 50 or 60 percent. We never play average defense. It’s bizarre.”

5. Dayton’s NCAA tournament resume looking good.

ESPN bracketology expert Joe Lunardi has the Flyers has a No. 8 seed playing No. 9 seed Ohio State in Louisville in the first round. Where have we seen that show before?

The Flyers rank 20th in the RPI. They’re tied with VCU for first in the A-10 at 4-0. They’re 33rd in the Ken Pomeroy ratings.

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