There’s one thing clearly different about this University of Dayton men’s basketball team: The Flyers actually have some bodies on the bench.
Dayton used that to its advantage during a 96-69 win over Division II Saginaw Valley State in an exhibition Saturday in front of 12,073 fans at UD Arena. It was a game in which the Flyers never trailed.
Led by redshirt freshman center Steve McElvene’s 15 points and seven rebounds, the Flyers had six players reach double figures in scoring and another two collected eight points. Ten players, including five freshmen, recorded at least 13 minutes and an 11th — Bobby Wehrli — likely would have seen more time had he not sat out practices the past week with hip and groin injuries.
“I think everyone is trying to find their role within the offense, and it’s just going to come along throughout the journey,” junior guard Scoochie Smith said. “We’ve been practicing together for a month, and … we’re just trying to get acquainted and used to playing with each other each and every day.”
The starting lineup featured two newcomers who sat out with redshirts last season but practiced with the team, one being McElvene and the other Charles Cooke, a transfer from James Madison.
Cooke, a junior, finished with 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
“This was a good game for me to get out there and get everything going for myself, as far as having a full 40 minutes aside from a scrimmage,” Cooke said. “…Everyone is adjusting well, but at the same time we’re still trying to get everyone on the same page, and when we do I think we’ll be pretty good.”
Freshman Ryan Mikesell, who finished with 10 points and four rebounds, made a 3-pointer at the end of the first half to send the Flyers to the locker room with a 48-34 lead. The Flyers shot 43.2 percent for the half, including going 2 of 9 on 3-pointers, but they were 14 of 20 on free throws — a sign of how physical the Cardinals were playing.
Saginaw Valley State is coming off its best season in program history after finishing 21-9 last year.
“It was the first opportunity for a lot of those guys to play in front of a crowd and officials where you are playing against someone else,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “I thought Saginaw Valley did a really nice job being physica. They ran a good offense so we got a good test and a lot of information, but we are very far away from being ready to go in terms of being able to win at the highest level we need to.”
Dayton didn’t play as quickly as Miller would have liked in a better-shooting second half, and the Flyers had some trouble with forward C.J. Turnage, who finished with 18 points.
Miller said the combination of McElvene and junior forward Kendall Pollard on the floor together creates some concerns early, especially as McElvene adjusts to the college game on defense. Though productive on offense, he had one defensive rebound in 17 minutes. Pollard started but has missed practice time with a shoulder bruise.
“(Turnage) was 9-for-16 from the floor, and he had his way with us in some ways,” Miller said. “The frontcourt is the place I’m most concerned about in terms of who can play in the frontcourt right now in a game that means something and get the job done.”
The Flyers open the season Friday at home against Southeast Missouri State.
• Pollard, who didn’t practice all week, was 2 of 7 from the field but made 6 of 7 free throws. He also had three blocks and three steals and picked up a technical foul after making comments to the officials when he was slammed to the ground on a shot attempt in the first half.
• Bradley transfer Josh Cunningham, who is sitting out this year, had his arm in a brace. Miller had said earlier this fall that Cunningham might have a shoulder operation.
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