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Oliver’s clutch free throws help UD complete comeback against Bonnies

Dayton’s Devin Oliver put a finger to his lips after the final buzzer and silenced a rowdy Saint Bonaventure student section with the age-old motion that simply means, “Shoosh!”

Seconds earlier, Oliver achieved the same effect with his play. The senior forward from Kalamazoo, Mich., who time and again has proved to be the Flyers’ MVP, hit four free throws in the final 13 seconds to lift Dayton to a 72-69 Atlantic 10 victory Saturday at the Reilly Center.

There were no bank shots this time for Oliver, not like his buzzer-beater at Ole Miss — just swish, swish, swish, swish.

“I can’t miss those,” Oliver said. “You miss those, those are ones you think about for months afterward. You’re a senior player, a senior captain, you know those are the type of free throws you have to knock down.”

The Flyers (16-8, 4-5) trailed most of the night but seized control with a 9-2 run beginning at the 4:34 mark and emerged with their third straight victory since a four-game losing streak.

It’s Dayton’s most important A-10 road victory so far because the Flyers move a game ahead of Saint Bonaventure (13-10, 3-6) and into a tie for seventh place with La Salle (12-11, 4-5).

Oliver’s night mirrored his team’s: many moments of frustration followed by a triumphant finish. He picked up his second foul three minutes into the game and didn’t play again until the second half began. Then he earned his third foul in the first 30 seconds of the second half.

Dayton is a much better team with Oliver on the court. This time, it managed to stay in the game without him. The game was tied at 30 at halftime after the Flyers ended the half on a 10-4 run.

Somehow Oliver managed not to foul again. He scored all 15 of his points, matching Vee Sanford for the team high, in the second half.

“A huge, huge win for our team,” Oliver said. “We were extremely resilient all the way to the end. All the credit goes to my teammates. I was probably in the earliest foul trouble I’ve been in in my life. They fought all the way through the second half. They told me to stick with it. That’s what we did.”

The Flyers won by grabbing a season-high 20 offensive rebounds. Matt Kavanaugh had a big one. His rebound and basket after a miss by Dyshawn Pierre gave Dayton the lead for good, 66-64, with 2:03 left. Sanford then hit the biggest shot of the night, a tough jumper over a defender with 1:12 to go. Dayton led 68-64.

The Bonnies cut the deficit to 68-67 on a 3-pointer by Charlon Kloff with 53 seconds left. The Flyers ran the clock down on the ensuing possession and settled for a 3-point attempt by Jordan Sibert. He missed, but Oliver grabbed the rebound, was fouled and hit two free throws to give Dayton a 70-67 lead.

Oliver hit two more with seven seconds left, and Kloof couldn’t get a shot off in time at the final buzzer.

The Flyers are just the second team to beat the Bonnies at home this season, and they won in front of the largest crowd of the season at the Reilly Center (5,344).

“It’s a great win,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “When you’re on the road in this league, as everyone can attest, it’s very difficult. In particular, Saint Bonaventure at home is very difficult to play. I’m really proud of our guys.”

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