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Dayton’s Kavanaugh takes advantage of opportunity against Murray State

Forward Jalen Robinson played cheerleader on the bench Sunday for Dayton. He’s a good one, too. He imitates an airplane, both arms outstretched as wings, as well as some of the real cheerleaders.

Flyers coach Archie Miller said Robinson could have played in Dayton’s 72-51 victory over Murray State at UD Arena. He sprained his knee two days earlier in practice, and it turned out the Flyers didn’t need him.

“I wasn’t sure how much he was going to go,” Miller said. “He was available. I just felt coming into this week, we needed a different approach and a different mindset. I do think he’s going to be OK.”

Forward Devon Scott earned his first start of the season in Robinson’s place and had four points and three rebounds in 18 minutes.

Most of Robinson’s minutes went to Matt Kavanaugh. The senior center had eight points and six rebounds in 18 minutes. He didn’t play at all the previous Sunday in a 79-76 overtime loss to Southern California and played only five minutes total in the two games before that.

“Matt did a great job for us today,” Miller said. “We’re a different team when we have bigs who came come in the game and play defense, rebound and be a presence in the paint. I thought Devon Scott did a good job early in the game. I thought Alex (Gavrilovic), when he got in the game, did good. I wanted to get Matt a run. He’s earned it. He keeps battling.”

Line struggles: One of the few negatives for the Flyers on Sunday was their performance at the free-throw line, a season-worst 12 of 24. Dyshawn Pierre, in particular, had a rough day. He led the Flyers with 19 points despite making only 3-of-8 free throws.

Late in the game, Pierre missed two free throws, but Kavanaugh grabbed the rebound after the second miss. Pierre then scored and was fouled on the same possession and this time hit the free throw. He shook his head in frustration after that sequence. He’s shooting 71 percent from the line but also had two big misses against Southern California.

“We’re inconsistent,” Miller said. “We shoot a ton. We shoot them under game conditions. The guys who are getting there a ton right now, like Dyshawn and Vee (Sanford), are better than they’re shooting. A lot of it is mental. You miss one, you get a little tighter.”

Next game: The Flyers host Winthrop (6-4) at 2 p.m. Wednesday on New Year’s Day. Winthrop lost 101-95 to Hampton (5-7) in double overtime Sunday.

It was the third straight loss by six points for the Eagles. They lost 72-66 to North Carolina Central on Dec. 8 and 62-56 to Wofford on Dec. 21.

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