The Billy Joel song “New York State of Mind” blared over the loudspeakers as fans filed for the exits late Wednesday night at Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym.
New York State of Mind, or Empire State of Mind — if you’re more into Jay-Z than Billy Joel — whatever you want to call it, the Flyers had it in their second Atlantic 10 Conference game of the season. Dayton gave underdog Fordham hope early but showed killer instinct in the second half, pulling away for an 80-68 victory.
An 13-2 run to start the second half sealed the game for the Flyers (13-4, 1-1). They made three 3-pointers during that run and five in the first seven minutes of the second half.
“Obviously, this league is about as tough as it gets,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “When you’re on the road, you have to be very thankful if you can come out of any arena in the league with a win.”
Fordham (7-9 overall) fell to 0-3 in the A-10 with its most lopsided loss in conference play. It lost 87-81 to Duquesne and 77-74 in overtime to Richmond last week.
The Rams jumped out to a 5-0 lead in this one, forcing Miller to call a timeout 54 seconds into the game. It didn’t help much because the Flyers fell behind 15-6 and 26-19 before they started to get things turned around. Dayton led 39-36 at halftime and stretched the lead to 52-38 in the opening minutes of the second half.
Dayton’s performance on defense throughout the game had as much to do with its comeback as anything. Fordham freshman Jon Severe, the A-10’s leading scorer, was held to 13 points on 3-of-13 shooting. He had averaged 25.8 points in the last six games. The A-10’s third leading scorer, Branden Frazier, scored 20 points, but got 12 of those at the free-throw line. He made 4-of-14 shots from the field.
“Watching Fordham on Saturday against Richmond, we were very nervous about their guard play and offensive rebounding,” Miller said. “We didn’t cure the offensive rebounding part (15-10 advantage for Fordham), but for the most part, things were challenged. We forced some tough shots.”
Fordham shot 35 percent as a team. Severe, Frazier and Mandell Thomas combined to make 8-of-37 shots (22 percent).
“We knew they would try to shoot a lot,” Dayton forward Dyshawn Pierre said. “We did a lot of scouting. We knew that was coming. We were just prepared today.”
The Flyers, on the other hand, shot 57 percent from the field. That’s their second-best performance of the season, and it comes one game after their worst performance: 31 percent shooting in a 67-59 loss to St. Louis at UD Arena.
Dayton senior Devin Oliver hit 6-of-7 shots and scored 16 points after going scoreless on 0-of-12 shooting against St. Louis.
“It felt good,” Oliver said. “We kind of got off to a slow start. Part of that was me. I wasn’t really worried (about the last game). It was just one of those games. I wasn’t thinking about it. I just wanted to get the road win.”
Vee Sanford added 16 points. Khari Price had 15 and hit 3-of-6 3-pointers. Pierre finished with 10.
“We got out of a slow funk to get some offense going,” Miller said. “In the second half, we got some guys who sat most of the first half in a little bit of a rhythm. We started to resemble the team we’ve been 95 percent of the time this season.”