Devin Oliver was told just before facing Charlotte on Wednesday he was being replaced in the starting lineup by Josh Benson, and the Dayton junior forward admitted he couldn’t disagree with the decision.
He had just four points and two rebounds in the Flyers’ previous game and three and five in the game before that. But even though Oliver’s production was waning, coach Archie Miller was quick to emphasize the Flyers hadn’t lost faith in him.
“Honestly, it didn’t bother me,” Oliver said of the demotion. “The past few weeks, I’ve kind of been struggling a little bit. Coach and I have been talking, and he just said to concentrate on the things I do best — rebounding and playing defense — and the rest will come.”
Oliver followed that script against Charlotte, leading UD to an 88-67 win with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He’s fifth in the A-10 in rebounding with 8.1 per game.
The victory propelled the Flyers into the mix for a spot in the 12-team conference tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. They’re 5-8 and in 13th place in the league, while George Washington, Saint Joseph’s, Charlotte and St. Bonaventure are all 6-7.
UD hosts Richmond on Saturday, faces the Bonnies at home Wednesday and finishes the regular season at GW.
“We’ve just got to get to Brooklyn,” Oliver said. “As a team, we’ve proven we can play with anybody. Once we get there, we can make something happen.”
They certainly appear capable of that if Oliver and Benson keep playing at a high level. Benson was benched after a Jan. 30 loss at Xavier, but he earned a starting nod again by scoring a combined 28 points in the two games before Charlotte and then had 15 points and six rebounds against the 49ers.
The Flyers seem to have found an ideal role for the lanky 6-9 senior, playing him more as a perimeter forward while either Devon Scott or Jalen Robinson handle the 5 spot and do the banging inside.
“Josh’s productivity in the last few games, you have to have that,” Miller said. “I think he understands if he doesn’t play well or isn’t playing at his top level, we’re not going to have a chance.
“I wanted to D-MO (Oliver) to really get back to understanding the rebounding things, the effort things, the toughness things that made him great earlier, and it’s what we have to have. And I think he brought that. It was the best performance of the season for him.”
Richmond (17-11, 7-6 Atlantic 10) at Dayton (15-12, 5-8), Time Warner Sports Channel, 95.7, 1290