Dayton coach Archie Miller has been troubled by his team’s inconsistency at home, pointing out how the Flyers seem to do their best work away from UD Arena.
That trend continued for almost the entire first half Saturday night against Miami, a team that had lost by 38 to North Carolina State, 41 to Louisville and 26 to Evansville.
UD trailed by as many as nine in the first half and was still tied with the RedHawks after 19 minutes.
But the Flyers finally asserted themselves after the break, riding their balanced scoring, inside dominance and dependable bench to an 83-61 victory before a crowd of 12,562.
Devin Oliver had 15 points and 10 rebounds and Josh Benson 13 points and 12 boards (his first career double-double) to lead the way. Kevin Dillard had 15 points, Vee Sanford 14 and Dyshawn Pierre 12. The Flyers shot 67 percent in the second half and had a commanding 45-22 edge on the boards.
The Flyers still weren’t able to shake that home malaise at the foul line. They were 5-for-10 in the first half and 15-for-25 for the night. Going into the game, they were hitting 61.6 percent at home and 75.8 away from UD Arena.
The Flyers (7-2) scored the last four points of the first half and then went on a 12-4 run to open a double-figure lead six minutes into the second half. The RedHawks (3-5) were never able to get it to single digits again.
“Good win by our team tonight,” Miller said. “I really believe Miami played as hard as they possibly could. Those guys were confident. They gave us everything we wanted and more. And we knew that (would happen). I think our kids continued to stay with it and played through it. And we had a number of guys do different things.
“The big key in the game when you’re playing a team that’s trying that kind of (full-court) pressure is don’t turn it over. I think we had 11 turnovers going into the last three minutes and then we got a little sloppy at the end (and finished with 14).
“We didn’t turn it over (too much). And the key was the rebounding. It kept us in the game in the first half. And in the second half, it enabled us to extend it. I was happy to see those guys get on the rim.”
Miami coach John Cooper was taking part in the rivalry for the first time, and the UD students welcomed him with some good-natured razzing. As Cooper gave an earful to a ref when one of his players was knocked to the floor without a whistle, the students chanted, “Sit down, shut up.”
“As you watch us, obviously we’ve got to be much tougher,” Cooper said. “What’s become a habit … teams are able to rebound on us. Certainly we’re not the biggest team in America, but it comes down to having the fighting desire inside that I’m going to get my man off (the glass). I can’t tell you how many times it happened on the free throw line (where UD had offensive rebounds). Whether it was eight, nine 10 times, that’s unacceptable.
“At the end of the day, you’ve also got to be able to score a bucket to slow down that momentum. I thought in the second half they really came out and decided they were going to put the ball on the deck, and they drove us and were able to get into the paint and cause havoc.”
The Flyers, who were 13 ½-point favorites, grabbed their first lead when point guard Dillard got untracked offensively. Coming off a 25-point game in an 81-76 win at Alabama, he started 0-for-3 from the field, but he cut the gap to one on a 3-pointer with 6:25 left before halftime.
Dillard then stole the dribble of Miami back-up guard Geovonie McKnight and took off in the other direction. He tried an ally-oop pass to Devon Scott, but their timing was off. Benson, though, ended up with the ball on the block and scored on a turn-around jumper for a 23-22 edge with 5:50 to go in the half.
The Flyers dominated the boards (23-11) and took a 37-33 halftime advantage on driving lay-ups by Benson and Dillard in the final minute, the latter with two seconds to go. UD has had leads after the opening 20 minutes in all nine games this season.
The RedHawks, picked to finish last in the MAC East Division, built an 18-9 lead with 12 ½ minutes to go in the first half with effective half-court defense. The Flyers had trouble finding openings and once were held scoreless on seven straight possessions.
But UD’s 25-7 surge from the end of the first half to midway through the second half turned the game into a route.
During a break in the second half, the four-time Atlantic 10 champion UD volleyball team was recognized and received a prolonged standing ovation.