Game No. 17 recap: Dayton 61, Saint Louis 45

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Jordan Sibert shoots against Saint Louis. David Jablonski/Staff


Jack Pohl, of Channel 2 in Dayton, predicted the Flyers would go 18-0 in A-10 play when we were covering the Buckeyes down in Texas last week. I laughed because Jack loves making outlandish predictions and he throws them all at me because I knows I’ll tweet them to make fun of him.

But maybe Jack’s onto something here.

I don’t really expect the Flyers to win their last 13 A-10 games, but they’re going to win a bunch of them if they maintain their current level of play. A 61-45 victory over Saint Louis on Saturday (photos here), Dayton’s eighth victory in a row, is the latest evidence that this team can win in all sorts of ways.

The 3-pointers weren’t dropping (4-of-18), but they got to the line 33 times. That’s the way they were winning earlier this season. They didn’t shoot well at the line either (64 percent) but still had no trouble with the Billikens.

Here are five things to take from the latest win:

1. The fun ride continues.

Dayton shares first place with VCU at 5-0. The Flyers have beaten five teams in the bottom seven of the standings. The Rams have wins over three teams in the top seven.

Of course, the Flyers haven’t played anyone in the top half of the league, and they’ve dominated all the teams they’ve played. There’s little reason to think they won’t compete with VCU, Davidson, George Washington, Rhode Island, UMass and Richmond, the other teams winning records in the conference.

For now, the Flyers can bask in the joy of a perfect start. Here’s the lede of my game story:

Cheerleaders throw toothbrushes and toothpaste in the stands at every Dayton men’s basketball game this season. At the same time, an advertisement on the scorer’s table for Superior Dental Care flashes one word: “Smile.”

Five games into January, the Flyer Faithful don’t need the reminder. Dayton has played a superior brand of basketball for the last month. It pasted another Atlantic 10 Conference opponent Saturday afternoon at UD Arena, beating Saint Louis 61-45 for its eighth straight victory.

“We’re just having fun,” Sibert said. “We’re enjoying playing with each other. We’re enjoying the way we play.”

The Flyers improved to 15-2. They’re three wins ahead of last year’s pace. A year ago, they started 1-5 in A-10 play. This year, they’re 5-0.

Only two Dayton teams have gotten off to better starts in A-10 play: the 2002-03 team (8-0) and the 2003-04 team (9-0). Neither of those teams won the first five games by double digits as this team has.

2. The Flyers are 8-0 with Bobby Wehrli in the rotation.

Wehrli had only two points and one rebound in his first game as a scholarship player. But he also had two assists and a steal. He holds his own for a guy nobody expected to play.

Tom Archdeacon wrote about Wehrli today.

When he first entered at the 12:57 mark of the first half, the students chanted his name: “Bobby! …Bobby!”

Soon he joined the celebrated ranks of Sponge Bob, Big Bird, Jon Gruden and Pope Francis — all whose likenesses adorn big placards that are waved overhead by the students. For the first time, Wehrli’s likeness — one of him shooting a jump shot, another of him going up to block an opponent’s layup attempt — were being held up for all to see.

“This really is a storybook,” Wehrli said quietly as he stood outside the dressing room afterwards. “Things like this rarely ever happen. It’s pretty surreal.”

He said his life definitely has changed in the past month.

“I go out to eat on Brown Street or something between classes and people stop me and say ‘good game’ or ‘congratulations,’ ” he said.

“And my Twitter account has blown up. Yesterday a guy tweeted back to me that I was his son’s favorite player. That’s pretty cool. It lifts you up and puts a smile on your face.”

3. The Flyers can play some beautiful basketball.

From my second story today:

One possession in the second half exemplified everything Dayton basketball is 17 games into the season.

The Flyers made seven or eight passes in a row. Every player touched the ball. Some passed on open looks. Kendall Pollard, who led the Flyers with 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, got it last and found himself wide open for a layup.

The San Antonio Spurs, masters of ball movement at the pro level, would have approved. Ball movement, passing and unselfish play are three reasons the Flyers beat Saint Louis 61-45 on Saturday at UD Arena and why they’ve won eight straight games.

“That’s what we do,” senior guard Jordan Sibert said. “That’s what really got us going last year, the extra pass, being unselfish. Sometimes people make the game hard. With the way we pass, the way we move, it’s just simple: move the ball and get layups.”

4. Flyers could enter top 25 this week.

Dayton ranked just outside the top 25 in last week’s polls (28th in the AP and 30th in the USA Today Coaches).

Wyoming (25th in AP) lost to San Diego State on Wednesday. Ohio State (25th in coaches and 26th in AP) lost to Iowa on Saturday. Michigan State (27th in AP and 26th in coaches) lost at No. 14 Maryland on Saturday. Baylor (22nd in AP and 23rd in coaches) lost at Kansas State on Saturday.

Plenty of teams around Dayton lost. It could be enough to help the Flyers rise, even though they haven’t beaten any top 25 teams and even any teams receiving votes.

5. Flyers prepare to play a Davidson team on the rebound.

Dayton’s next opponent on the road Tuesday, Davidson, suffered its worst loss of the season Saturday, 89-63 at Richmond. The Spiders bounced back from a 72-70 double-overtime loss to George Washington on Thursday.

From the AP:

Kendall Anthony made seven 3-pointers and scored 25 points and Richmond led from start to finish in an 89-63 victory against Davidson on Saturday night.

T.J. Cline added 23 points and Terry Allen 21 for the Spiders (10-8, 3-2 Atlantic 10). Richmond, coming off a double-overtime loss at George Washington on Thursday night, led 42-27 at halftime and scored 20 of the first 26 points after halftime to open a 57-31 lead that climbed to as many as 31.

Tyler Kalinoski scored 20 to lead Davidson (12-4, 3-2). The Wildcats, in their first season in the league, had beaten the Spiders 81-67 in their conference opener two weeks ago in North Carolina.

 


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