A renewed commitment to working the ball around for quality shots led to Dayton erasing an eight-point halftime deficit (they trailed by as much as 16 in the first half) to beat No. 21 Vanderbilt in Nashville, winning by the final score of 72-67.
Archie Miller’s Flyers shot 59.3 percent from the field in the second half, with improved shot selection being a key factor. After settling for perimeter shots against a team without its leading shot blocker in Luke Kornet in the first half, attempting ten three-pointers (making three), Dayton attempted just five three-pointers in the second half.
Instead the ball went inside on a more regular basis, with Dayton scoring 24 of their 40 paint points in the game’s final 20 minutes. Kendall Pollard, who hit a huge three-pointer in the game’s final minute, scored 12 of his game-high 21 points in the second half and redshirt freshman big man Steve McElvene (ten points, nine rebounds) chipped in with six points and five rebounds.
As a team Dayton outscored Vanderbilt 40-22 in the paint while also controlling the rebounding stats (38.5 percent offensive reb. percentage, 79.8 percent defensive reb. percentage), which led to their holding a 17-2 edge in second chance points.
While Damian Jones accounted for 18 points and eight rebounds, Vanderbilt didn’t get much production from their other front court players on a night when they needed them to step up. Dayton took advantage, and they managed to pick up a result that will look good on their résumé as the season wears on. Also of note is the fact that Dayton is now 12-3 in their last 15 games against SEC opponents.
Dayton has depth, experience and talent, attributes taken into consideration by voters when they were picked to win the Atlantic 10 in the league’s preseason media poll. Yet with an eye towards the future the play of McElvene may be the biggest takeaway for the Flyers. After accounting for 14 points, ten rebounds and four blocks in a win over North Florida the redshirt freshman followed it up with another solid outing, doing so against a big man projected to be a first round pick in June’s NBA Draft.
Dayton has players such as Pollard, point guard Scoochie Smith and forward Charles Cooke to lean on for key contributions. But if McElvene can continue to develop, at his size (6-foot-11) he gives Dayton a piece they’ve lacked in recent years. And with the suspended Dyshawn Pierre expected back at the end of the semester, an already deep Dayton squad will get deeper ahead of conference play.