Game No. 25 recap: Dayton 68, St. Joseph’s 64

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Kendall Pollard after his crazy shot with 1:14 left. David Jablonski/Staff


 

Matthew Schwade, who covers UD for FlyerHoops.net, brought his 5-year-old son to the game Thursday, and his son left with a piece of the St. Joseph’s Hawk mascot. Schwade posted a photo to Twitter of a Hawk feather his son found on the ground.

The Hawk is either falling apart or shedding like my dog Fergus.  Do Hawks shed? Do fake Hawks shed? I don’t know.

What I do know is the Flyers finally plucked the Hawks — the players, not the mascot, or maybe both — last night after losing three games to them last season. A 68-64 victory (photos here) keeps the Flyers in first place in the A-10 and on track to complete a perfect season at home.

Here are five things to take from the game:

1. Twentieth victory was one of the toughest.

From my game story:

The team that next beats the Flyers at UD Arena will need a horseshoe, a four-leaf clover and some Harry Potter magic. No matter the obstacles and the circumstances, Dayton refuses to lose at home. Three hundred and 88 days have passed since they have.

The Flyers outlasted St. Joseph’s 68-64 on Thursday in front of a crowd of 13,015 in a typical rough-and-tumble Atlantic 10 rumble. Their home winning streak has reached 14 games this season and 19 overall, the fourth-longest in school history.

Dayton hasn’t lost on Tom Blackburn Court since St. Joseph’s Langston Galloway hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to beat the Flyers 60-57 on Jan. 29, 2014. Galloway’s shot wasn’t far from everyone’s mind as this game moved to the final seconds.

This time, with the Hawks trailing 66-64, St. Joseph’s best player, DeAndre’ Bembry, lost the ball out of bounds with four seconds to play. Dayton’s Dyshawn Pierre then clinched the victory by making two free throws with two seconds remaining.

The free-throw stat again proved decisive for the Flyers. They outscored the Hawks 18-7 at the line.“It was one of those games,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “Just another really, really hard-fought game in February. You can tell we’re starting to get late in the season. If you don’t have that juice, that pep, you’ll get taken advantage of.”

 2. Pollard not only plays, but excels.

Miller is touting Pollard as the most improved player in the A-10. I haven’t looked at who the other candidates are, but Pollard has to be among the favorites for that award.

There were questions all week about whether he would play after banging his head on a St. Bonaventure player Saturday. He didn’t practice all week, but the Flyers found out Wednesday he would be able to play.

Pollard made a rapid recovery from some serious symptoms. He talked with Ryan Bass, who lost his season to concussions, on Facetime about what to do. This was Pollard’s first concussion.

From Tom Archdeacon’s story:

Last Sunday — a day after he was knocked out of the game against the Bonnies — he came back to UD Arena hoping to watch the Flyers women play.

“I came to the girls basketball game but I had to leave,” he said. “The loud noise, the lights, they really got to me.”

And that makes what he did Thursday night against Saint Joseph’s all the more wondrous.

The bright Arena lights, the roar of a sellout crowd, the gritty toe-to-toe, 40-minute battle with the Hawks — none of it made him flinch … or falter.

Making seven of eight shots from the floor, eight of 13 free-throw attempts for a team-high 22 points and adding eight rebounds in a yeoman’s 37 minutes, Pollard led the Flyers to a hard-fought 68-64 victory.

3. Flyers won by doing what they do best.

From my third story last night:

Dayton attempted 3-pointers on seven straight possessions early in the second half and made one. St. Joseph’s took advantage of that cold streak and went on a 12-0 run.

At that point, the Flyers started doing what they do best, and it won them the game. They scored their next six points at the free-throw line to get back into it and then held off the Hawks in the final minute for a 68-64 victory Thursday at UD Arena.

“The biggest difference in the game was we went to the line,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “In the first half, 13 of our 23 shots were 3s. Then we got 19 free throws in the second half. A lot of that was going inside to the paint. That’s sort of how we have to do it. For the most part, the 3s we took in the second half were pretty open.”

Earlier in the week, I wrote about how free throws are helping Dayton win.

Dayton coach Archie Miller’s eyes lit up when a reporter asked him Tuesday about the Flyers ranking No. 1 in the country in offensive free-throw rate. He didn’t know they had risen that high. Last he looked, they were third.

The meaning of that statistical category, which is determined by dividing free throws attempted by field goals attempted, may fly over the head of the average fan, but it’s something the Dayton coach takes seriously. The stat helps explain how the Flyers (19-5, 9-3 Atlantic 10) succeed with seven players who average 6-foot-4.

Free-throw rate measures how often a team gets to the foul line and, on defense, how often it lets the other team get there. It’s one of the four key factors, according to Ken Pomeroy’s advanced analysis website, in efficiency.

4. Pierre reaches milestone.

From my second story last night:

On a night Flyer fans gave a standing ovation to former coach Don Donoher, who found out earlier in the week he will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in November, junior forward Dyshawn Pierre continued to etch his name deeper into the Dayton record books.

Pierre reached the 1,000-point mark with two free throws in the first half. He had 15 points and 10 rebounds in Dayton’s 68-64 victory against St. Joseph’s on Thursday at UD Arena and now has 1,007 in his career.

The Whitby, Ont., native is the first Canadian to score 1,000 points for the Flyers. He’s the 44th player in program history to hit the milestone. He passed Charles Little and Sean Finn and now ranks 43rd.

“It’s cool,” Pierre said. “I knew about it coming into the game, but with a close game like that, you don’t really think about it when you’re on the court. You’re just trying to win.”

5. NCAA, A-10 hopes in good shape

Dayton rose to No. 29 in the RPI today. Jerry Palm predicts they’ll get a No. 9 seed and play Cincinnati in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Charlotte.

In the A-10, the Flyers share first place with two teams they haven’t played: VCU and Rhode Island. Five games remain.

Dayton plays Duquesne at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Flyers overcame an 18-point deficit to win there last season. The Dukes beat GW by 16 in Pittsburgh last week, so they can’t be overlooked. They also lost by six at home to VCU and by one to Rhode Island.

 

 


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