The four Dayton Flyers seniors sat on the bench next to each other in the final minutes, enjoying a rare moment of peace in a season full of drama and tension.
Kendall Pollard, Scoochie Smith, Charles Cooke and Kyle Davis watched the final seconds tick away in a 90-53 victory over Duquesne at UD Arena. The only question at the end of this one was whether walk-on senior guard Joey Gruden would make his first career field goal. He missed a 3-pointer in the final minute and earned a fake look of disgust from Smith.
If the walk-ons are playing and shooting, it’s a good day for the Flyers, and this was among the best days of the season. This was UD’s most lopsided victory and its most dominant performance from start to finish. The Flyers led by double digits for the last 30 minutes and stretched the lead to 46 points in the second half.
Pollard led the Flyers with 16 points on 6-of-6 shooting in 19 minutes.
“We wanted to play aggressive from the first four minutes to the last four minutes,” Pollard said. “That’s what we did.”
Dayton (17-5, 8-2) moved within two victories of tying the school record for wins in a four-year period. The Flyers kept pace with Virginia Commonwealth (18-5, 8-2) atop the Atlantic 10. The Rams won 83-77 in overtime at St. Bonaventure.
Of the many impressive stats from the game, this is the most impressive: Dayton had 30 assists on 37 field goals. This was the fourth time in school history Dayton has recorded 30 or more assists. Dayton last had 30 assists in 1989 against Southern. The record of 37 was set in 1985 against Long Island.
Smith led the Flyers with eight assists. Cooke had six. Kyle Davis had five. Nine players had at least one.
“Guys shared the ball,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “That was the easiest thing to see early in the game. Charles had two or three early. The ball was pinging around. Guys were ready to shoot. It made the game easier for us.”
Ten players scored for Dayton. Darrell Davis made 3 of 6 3-pointers for the second straight game and finished with 13 points. Kyle Davis made all five of his field-goal attempts and moved into the top five in the A-10 in field-goal percentage (60.2).
Cooke and Smith each scored nine. John Crosby made both of his 3-point attempts and scored eight. He’s shooting 53.3 percent from long range (8 of 15). Xeyrius Williams scored seven on 3-of-4 shooting.
Sam Miller and Trey Landers each added four points. Dayton shot a season-best 58.7 percent from the floor while holding Duquesne (9-15, 2-9) to 36.4 percent.
“It was a good win for our team, especially getting back home,” Miller said. “We had a tough week on the road with some really hard-fought games, some hard trips. I thought we did a good job as a group taking our time, getting our bodies recovered mentally and physically. Guys were ready to play in front of a tremendous sold-out crowd (13,455).”
At 17-5, the Flyers are two wins behind the pace of last season, but they seem poised for a stronger stretch run. They were 21-3 in mid-February last season and then lost three of their last six regular-season games. With this victory, Dayton pushed its league-best scoring margin from 10.6 to 11.8.
“With the last two games we’ve played,” Pollard said, “I feel we’ve been playing hard and playing together.”
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