Dayton put in some extra work to get ready for Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday — some real manual-labor kind of work.
Second-year coach Archie Miller, trying to pound home a message to his players about giving greater effort to show their appreciation for what they’ve got, had the team clean the UD Arena court earlier this week.
After two straight losses and a 2-5 start in the Atlantic 10, Miller believed the Flyers needed a lesson in humility. And the janitorial duty had the desired effect.
“It was humbling,” senior point guard Kevin Dillard said. “We were truly humbled this weekend. We got back to the basics. I think that’s what we need, just for everyone to come back down to earth.
“I’m not saying everyone was walking around here cocky. But some things you take for granted, you shouldn’t. And playing for the University of Dayton is one thing you shouldn’t. There’s a lot of guys who would kill to be here.”
Dillard scored his team’s last nine points and 12 of its final 14 to lead the Flyers to a 60-54 victory before 12,453 fans. Down to eight scholarship players because of injuries to sub center Alex Gavrilovic (knee) and guard Khari Price (thigh), UD finished the game on an 11-4 run.
Miller also made sure the game programs didn’t have any players on it, saying no one deserved a cover shot. But Dillard, who had a game-high 23 points, believes the win could be the start of something good.
“Every team has their lows,” he said. “The Ravens had their lows and came back and won the Super Bowl. Anything is possible. We have to just keep believing in each other and keep the faith.”
The Flyers apparently approached their maintenance-crew duties with the right attitude. And they might need to prepare for another round.
Asked about the moves, Miller said: “We don’t deserve to wear the nice clothes. We don’t deserve, in some cases, to have the nice locker room. When guys work all different hours to sweep your floor so you can practice and clean the seats so people can come in and cheer for you, you have to have a little humility about it.
“We’ll continue to do that down the homestretch because part of us being good is our minds being right. Don’t take for granted what you have because it can be gone in a very quick second. (Know) how special it is to compete and play in college, especially at a place like this.”
Freshman wing Dyshawn Pierre chipped in 10 points, and junior forward Devin Oliver had 12 rebounds to go with eight points. UD (13-9, 3-5 Atlantic 10) won the board battle against the taller Hawks, 35-27.
With the crowd on its feet, the Flyers put together a surge to take a 47-45 lead on Dillard’s transition 3-pointer with 5:40 left, capping a 9-2 run. St. Joe’s (13-8, 4-4) regained the lead on a 15-footer by Langston Galloway, but Dillard put UD in front for good on a 3-pointer with 2:18 to go. And he put the finishing touches on the win with four straight free throws in the final 27.9 seconds.
Dillard is 30-for-30 from the foul line in the final two minutes of games this season.
“You go on the road in this league and give up 60, you should win that game,” St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli said. “We failed the basketball IQ test. The first half we had a play drawn up and never get the ball entered. We have a 2-on-1 (fastbreak) in the first half, and we got a guy shooting a floater when we’ve got guys who will rip the rim down with a dunk. We want a 2 at the end, and the kid shoots a 3.
“But Dillard did what a first-team all-league player does, what an older guy does. He threw them on his back.”
Temple at Dayton, 11 a.m. Saturday, ESPNU, 95.7, 1290