Dayton Flyers looking like shot-blocking machine

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

caption arrowCaption
Dayton improved to 7-2 with 75-61 victory on Dec. 10, 2016.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

UD blocks nine shots in victory over East Tennessee State

Kendall Pollard took the floor the first time in the 2016-17 season on Dec. 3 with Steve McElvene on his mind. Pollard pointed toward the sky and then touched his heart as he made his debut after missing six games, remembering the 20-year-old Dayton Flyers center who died of an enlarged heart.

“I think about him every day,” Pollard said. “I usually wear wristbands (to remember him), but I can’t play with them. I just try to keep his name alive as much as I can.”

The day of McElvene’s death, May 12, becomes more distant as the season continues. The large memory of Big Steve, however, remains. Dayton paid tribute to him in a subtle way Saturday by blocking nine shots in a 75-61 victory over East Tennesee State at UD Arena. That followed a school-record 11-block effort in a 91-59 victory against Saint Joseph’s College on Tuesday.

Dayton has looked like a shot-blocking machine, which is just what McElvene was in his one season on the court. He set a school record with 55 blocks last season.

Pollard had one block in his third game since returning from a thigh contusion. He added 12 points and 12 rebounds in 31 minutes. He didn’t know how to explain the team’s mounting block totals other than to say, “RIP Steve, man. I know we wish we had him. If he was here, he probably would have had 30 blocks in the last two games. I don’t know. I guess it’s guys just staying tight and helping each other out.”

The Flyers, who won their fifth straight game to improve to 7-2, are averaging 4.6 blocks per game. The school record, set in 1977-78, is 4.0 per game.

Xeyrius Williams leads Dayton with 13 blocks. Charles Cooke has nine, and he had four Saturday to go with a game-high 24 points. The blocked shots helped Dayton hold ETSU to 36.4 percent shooting, its worst performance of the season. Entering the game, the Buccaneers led the nation in field-goal percentage (58.8).

“Kendall typically can come off the ball, get up and make a hard play on the ball and get a couple blocks,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “When you look at Charles as a perimeter player, I think that’s why he’s one of the best defensive players we’ve had. Xeyrius brings some length to the table as well. I don’t think we’re going to be a team that blocks nine shots a game, but we have an activity level around the rim that’s a little bit different. We forced 18 turnovers, had seven steals and nine blocks. Sixteen deflections on the stat sheet, that’s pretty good.”

Dayton played one of its best games start to finish, ending a five-game winning streak by the Bucs (7-2), who are expected to contend with Chattanooga for the Southern Conference championship. Chattanooga beat Dayton 61-59 last December at UD Arena. The Flyers erased any chance of an ETSU upset by dominating the last 10 minutes of the first half and the first 12 minutes of the second half.

Dayton took control with a 13-2 run beginning with a jumper by Pollard with 10:08 to go in the first half. Dayton led 37-25 at halftime and never let the Bucs get closer than that in the second half.

“This is probably the best game we’ve played for 40 minutes the whole season,” Pollard said.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

caption arrowCaption
Dayton beats East Tennessee State 75-61 on Dec. 10, 2016,

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The Flyers shot 56.2 percent (27 of 48) from 2-point range, making up for season-worst 16.7 percent shooting (3 of 18) from 3-point range. Scoochie Smith scored nine points. Williams and John Crosby each scored seven. Sam Miller and Kyle Davis had six each.

“A good win for our team; I’m really happy for them,” Miller said. “Like I told them after the game, that’s one that’s really going to count at the end of the season. That team’s going to win a lot of games. They’ve got a lot of talent. I thought we were really ready to play. From a game-plan perspective, guys took on the challenge in the post and on the glass.”

Miller credited Davis for holding ETSU’s leading scorer, guard T.J. Cromer, to his worst offensive game of the season. Cromer made 1 off 11 shots from the field and scored four points. Cromer was averaging 19.1 points per game and shooting 44.4 points from the field.

“I thought Kyle did an excellent job setting the tone once again on their best player,” Miller said. “Cromer, coming in, was having a great season.”


SATUDAY’S GAME

Dayton vs. Northwestern in Chicago, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO

About the Author