Game No. 31 recap: Dayton 75, St. Bonaventure 71

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Pollard and Sibert after the victory. David Jablonski/Staff


We’re 31 game recaps into my favorite season. Basketball has just the right number of games. Baseball has too many. Football too few.

My year bounces from one to the next. I’ve barely spent a second thinking about Joey Votto and the Reds, and they’ll be dominating by days in a few weeks. It’s up to the Flyers to keep this March drama rolling, and as they showed Friday in a 75-71 victory against St. Bonaventure (photos here), they still have some magic left in the tank.

It’s a dreary, wet day in Brooklyn this morning. A perfect day to stay inside and watch basketball. So that’s what I’ll do: Davidson vs. VCU at 1:30 and Dayton vs. Rhode Island at 4. Let’s see if Saturday’s semifinals live up to the excitement of Friday’s quarterfinals when the first three games all went to the final minute and two were decided by makes and misses in the final seconds.

Here are five things to take from Dayton’s 24th win (highlights here):


 

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Archie in the huddle in the second half. David Jablonski/Staff

1. The Flyers dodged an upset (and beer).

Dayton coach Archie Miller left the court at halftime pointing into the stands and asking for security. A fan did something to anger the coach, and it happened again after the game as the Flyers headed to the locker room.

I worked this incident into my game story:

Describing it as madness understates the matter. Basketball in March — especially at the Atlantic 10 tournament, where the first three games Friday were decided in the final minute — is mad, crazy, loony and every other adjective in the thesaurus.

The Dayton Flyers know that from experience but learned it again in the A-10 quarterfinals. Somehow they survived their St. Bonaventure adventure, winning 75-71 at the Barclays Center.

Dayton advanced. It persevered. The Flyers even dodged a beer bottle as they left the court. A frustrated St. Bonaventure fan, without any respect for good beer, tossed a bottle at the Flyers. It barely missed — just like the Bonnies on this night.

Dayton (24-7) completed a three-game season sweep of the Bonnies (18-13).

“We’re just a tough team that doesn’t want to go home early,” Dayton sophomore guard Kyle Davis said. “We want to play for a championship on Sunday. We just want to grind out and play hard every day down here to get one.”


 

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Pollard block’s Ndoye’s shot. David Jablonski/Staff

2. Kendall Pollard carried the Flyers.

We’ve seen Pollard do Pollard things all season, but not quite like this. This went above and beyond the best of Pollard’s efforts to date. He had a career-high 26 points. He blocked a 7-footer’s shot. He had a SportsCenter Top 10 type dunk. He stole the ball from Bona when the Bonnies needed a basket to tie the game in the final seconds.

My friend Jon Greenberg, of ESPN Chicago, is writing about the Chicago native Pollard (and Kyle Davis, too) next week. It will be a timely piece after this performance.

Tom Archdeacon, who’s here in Brooklyn with myself and WHIO’s Mike Hartsock, covered the Pollard angle last night.

Atlas, the god of Greek mythology who carried the celestial globe on his back, comes off as something of a lightweight when compared to Kendall Pollard in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament Friday night against St. Bonaventure.

Talk about carrying the weight of the world, it’s remarkable the way the Dayton Flyers’ 6-foot-6 forward was able to get up and down the court at the Barclays Center with the load he had on his shoulders.

After Dayton had squeaked by the Bonnies 75-71 in a game where the lead changed 15 times, Flyers coach Archie Miller said Pollard “put us on his back tonight. He was a true warrior.”

A few seconds before that, Miller had called him an “ironman.”

Along with carrying the team, Pollard said he had played the game “with a little chip on my shoulders.”

The way he acted, it was more like a boulder.


 

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Allen Griffin, right, with Dyshawn Pierre before game.

3. This tournament is special for Allen Griffin.

Archdeacon talked to the UD assistant yesterday afternoon about returning home to Brooklyn for this tournament. Griffin grew up 10 minutes away from the Barclays Center in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Griffin even recommended Junior’s, the old-school restaurant Archdeacon, Hartsock and I ate at late last night after a long day at the arena.

Here’s an excerpt from Arch’s piece:

I watched the whole Barclays development go up and now — especially being a Brooklyn kid — I’ve got tremendous pride,” Griffin said. “For all of Brooklyn, it’s brought a different feeling, an excitement, a buzz to people here. It’s our arena and when I go out there it gives me goose bumps.”

Griffin, who has been with Archie Miller all four years at UD, still relishes coming back home and it showed Friday as he sat by the window of a Brooklyn coffee shop before the game and watched the busy street scene in front of him.

“This is electric,” he said softly. “Some people who never grew up here, they don’t understand it, but if you’re from here, there is an adrenaline rush as soon as you set foot back in New York City. It doesn’t matter what borough, you get that feeling the same. It’s all the city. There’s no other place like it in the world and, for me, no place like Brooklyn.”


 

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Scoochie Smith after the victory. David Jablonski/Staff

4. Scoochie had a solid, all-around game.

Speaking of New York natives, I’m sure Dayton’s point guard Smith wants to play well here. He sure did Friday.

An excerpt from my third story last night:

Dayton sophomore guard Scoochie Smith ran into an old high school friend on his walk with the Flyers to practice Thursday in Brooklyn. It’s a small world but a big city, so this was a chance meeting even for the Bronx native playing close to home.

There was nothing lucky about Smith’s performance Friday. He had 11 points, six assists, three steals and no turnovers in 37 minutes as Dayton beat St. Bonaventure 75-71 in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament at the Barclays Center.

“Scooch was great,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “He played like a true point guard. His pace up and down the floor was terrific. He got a couple big free throws on pushes. Just, in general, he played really well, I thought.”


 

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Jordan Sibert after his big 3-pointer. David Jablonski/Staff

5. Sibert had the shot of the night.

Sibert has hit a bunch of clutch shots this season. This may be the biggest.

Some players might flex a bicep after a big shot or throw their arms in the air. Dayton senior guard Jordan Sibert backed down the court after a go-ahead 3-pointer with 69 seconds to play and tapped his heart several times.

That moment describes Sibert as well as any. He’s no showboat. If any muscle defines him, it’s his heart.

Sibert’s basket gave the No. 2 seed Flyers a 69-67 lead. They didn’t trail again in a 75-71 victory against No. 7 seed St. Bonaventure in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament Friday at the Barclays Center.

In a game with 15 lead changes and 10 ties, it was the shot of the night. Sophomore forward Kendall Pollard, who led the Flyers with 26 points, assisted on the basket.

“I don’t really know exactly what the play was that we called,” said Sibert, who scored 19 points. “But I know Kendall, he had a great drive through the lane and he kind of went in the air and I was just trying to get to an open area. I think he and Kyle (Davis) were open, but Kendall did a great job of finding me.

“It was just a shot that I shoot all the time. My coaches always tell me, if you’re open, shoot the shot. And they believe in me; my teammates believe in me. So when I had that opportunity, it was a normal shot, and it was great to have my team uplifted by it.”


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