One week after suffering its most disappointing loss of the season, Dayton picked up what to this date is its biggest win of the season Saturday afternoon in Richmond. Archie Miller’s Flyers won 59-55 at No. 22 VCU, moving into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 with Rhode Island, and multiple players stepped forward for the visitors.
After Jordan Sibert scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half, Kendall Pollard, Scoochie Smith and Dyshawn Pierre combined to score 19 points in the second to seal the deal for Dayton. Much has been made of Dayton’s rotation, one that’s short in both stature (their tallest available player is 6-foot-6) and bodies (seven scholarship players), but neither of those deficiencies has been used as a crutch by the Flyers.
And faced with a team that, on paper, had a clear advantage in both areas Dayton was able to limit VCU’s opportunities both on the offensive glass and in the open court.
Given their half-court offensive problems, VCU needs turnovers to be at their best on that end of the floor. Entering Saturday’s game the Rams were ranked 13th in the Atlantic 10 (in conference games) in field goal percentage and eighth in three-point percentage, but their league-best turnover margin has kept the Rams right in the middle of the conference title race.
Against Dayton, which has multiple players capable of handling the ball against full-court pressure, VCU was able to force just eight turnovers which were converted into three points. Also of note is the fact that VCU did not score a single fast-break point, and forced to find shots in the half court Shaka Smart’s team shot 34 percent from the field and 6-for-25 from beyond the arc. And while the loss of Briante Weber hasn’t helped matters, the biggest issue for VCU moving forward may be fellow senior Treveon Graham.
Graham’s dealt with an ankle injury this season, missing two games earlier this month, and in the five games since he’s struggled to get back into a groove offensively. In those games Graham has shot 22-for-64 (34.3%) from the field and 6-for-23 (26.1%) from beyond the arc. And after winning the first three games in Graham’s return (George Washington, Saint Louis and UMass) the Rams have lost the last two (Richmond and Dayton). If VCU is to be a threat next month, they have to get Graham untracked.
In regards to Saturday, Dayton certainly deserves credit for the issues Graham and his teammates endured on the offensive end of the floor. Open looks came at a premium, and Dayton completed those defensive possessions by grabbing the ensuing rebound on most occasions. Dayton may not be a deep team, but throughout the season they’ve shown the willingness to compete and practically fight for every foot of space on the court.
That’s a reflection of their leadership, from Coach Miller on down to his players. And with Rhode Island visiting UD Arena Tuesday night, the program’s first Atlantic 10 regular season title of any kind (division or overall) since 2004 is well within their reach.