If opposing teams didn’t know it already, Kevin Dillard’s free-throw display against Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday will surely have him popping up on scouting reports the rest of the season: When the game is on the line, don’t foul the Dayton point guard.
Dillard made four straight attempts in the final 28 seconds to clinch a 60-54 win over the Hawks. In the final two minutes of games this season, he’s 30-for-30.
He’s also pretty reliable in the first 38 minutes. He’s shooting 87.4 percent overall, which has him on pace for one of the top-10 single-season marks in UD history.
“I was always told growing up free throws win games, especially being a point guard,” he said. “You can’t miss free throws when they count.”
Pausing, he added, “I hope I didn’t just jinx myself.”
Dillard has had to carry more of the load this season, but it hasn’t always been easy. The Flyers graduated four reliable 3-point shooters from last year’s team who forced opponents to extend their defenses. But without that consistent perimeter threat, Dillard is encountering more clogged lanes.
He looked like the point guard from last season against the Hawks, though. He scored 23 points, his most since getting 25 against Alabama on Dec. 5. And he took over after the Flyers fell behind, 43-36, with 12 minutes to go.
He had a hand in 21 of UD’s final 24 points, scoring 14 himself and assisting on another seven.
“He put us on our shoulders. … He iced the game from the line. He made big shots,” UD coach Archie Miller said. “More than anyone right now, he’s got to be like that every night. There can’t be any letdown. We’ll have his antennas up. And I think he’s approaching the game the right way.”
Dillard said all of the Flyers needed a wake-up call following a crushing loss at Xavier and a 29-point thrashing at Saint Louis. After being challenged by the coaches in a team meeting Monday, the players met again on their own and talked about how they have to start living up to the standards expected at UD.
“We got to thinking about where we’ve come from, who has sacrificed things for us to get here and who is still supporting us,” Dillard said. “We’re not just playing for ourselves. We’ve got to think outside the box. We’re playing for our whole community, we’re playing for our families, and we have to take pride in that. It’s bigger than just us.”
Templeat Dayton, 11 a.m., ESPNU, 95.7, 1290