Kendall Pollard

Associated Press

Second-half resurgence pushes Dayton past No. 21 Vanderbilt

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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.

Game-ending 10-2 run pushes No. 11 Dayton past No. 11 Boise State

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With senior guard Jordan Sibert playing just nine minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, No. 11 Dayton struggled offensively against No. 11 Boise State and went into halftime trailing by nine points. Sibert’s return to the court certainly helped the Flyers in the second half, as Dayton shot better than 72 percent from the field and closed the game on a 10-2 run to win 56-55 at UD Arena.

The result wasn’t without controversy, as Dayton was playing in its home arena and there’s been plenty of debate as to whether or not a foul should have been called on Derrick Marks’ final shot attempt. But even with those issues (personally, Dayton had done enough to merit inclusion into the main bracket without having to play in the First Four), there were also basketball reasons as to why the Broncos saw a nine-point lead with 5:41 remaining slip away.

Dayton was far better offensively down the stretch, as they made their final six field goals with Sibert’s three with 35 seconds remaining being the difference. By comparison, Boise State made just one of its final eight shots from the field and on their final two chances to win the game Leon Rice’s team could not find a quality shot.

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First there was the ball screen for Marks at the top of the key which Dayton blitzed, with the two defenders forcing the Mountain West Player of the Year into the corner. Kendall Pollard stripped Marks of the ball, and following the review the Broncos kept the ball with 4.6 seconds remaining. Marks couldn’t get a good look on the final shot either, with his three-point attempt missing the mark as time expired.

That final play is one that will be disputed, and the added variable of Dayton playing a home game doesn’t help matters at all. But even with that being the case, better offensive execution and converting second chance opportunities at a higher rate would have resulted in Boise State winning the game.

Boise State collected 12 offensive rebounds, which worked out to an offensive rebounding percentage of 35.3 percent, but they scored just six second-chance points (three more than Dayton). Marks finished the game with 23 points but only one other Bronco, guard Montigo Alford (11 points), reached double figures. Dayton, finished with three players in double figures, with Kendall Pollard leading the way with 17 points and six rebounds.

Archie Miller’s team has navigated its lack of depth for a couple months now, and they simply find ways to win games. They don’t have much in the way of size, but the Flyers make up for it by expending maximum effort on both ends of the floor. With one NCAA tournament win under their belt, Dayton will look to pick up another when they take on No. 6 Providence Friday night in an East Region matchup in Columbus.

Unfortunately for Dayton, the prevailing question will be whether or not they had an unfair advantage by playing at home, and they aren’t the ones to blame for that being the case.

Dayton remains tied for first in the Atlantic 10 with win at No. 22 VCU

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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.

Yuta Watanabe makes a freshman mistake, jumps with Kendall Pollard (VIDEO)

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Dayton’s frontline took a massive hit in December when Devon Scott and Jalen Robinson were dismissed from the program. That meant Archie Miller’s squad would forge ahead with no one standing over 6-foot-6 on the roster.

Kendall Pollard, along with Dyshawn Pierre, is the tallest player in the starting five. The physical 6-foot-6 forward had no problem rising up over Yuta Watanabe, the George Washington defender, on Friday night for the thunderous slam.

Pollard’s slam came at a crucial point for the Flyers. Up until that play, Dayton had gone without a field goal for more than 10 minutes, dating back to the first half.

The Atlantic 10 has felt the wrath of Pollard this month, as he set a monster screen on UMass guard Trey Davis in the final seconds of Dayton’s 66-64 loss to the Minutemen on Jan. 29.

UMass guard Trey Davis ‘OK’ after being leveled by screen, expected to play Saturday

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On Thursday night, UMass was closing in on its second win against one of the Atlantic 10’s top teams.

Trey Davis sunk two free throws to put the Minutemen up 66-61 over Dayton with 15 seconds remaining. Davis picked up Flyers’ point guard Scoochie Smith full-court. As Smith and Davis raced down the sideline, a screen — in the form of 6-foot-6, 210-pound Kendall Pollard — awaited Davis, who hit the deck after colliding square into Pollard’s chest:

Davis was down for several minutes before walking off the floor on his own power. UMass closed out a 66-64 win over Dayton moments later, with Davis ending with 15 points, four assists and three boards.

“He’s OK,” UMass head coach Derek Kellogg told reporters after the game, via Nick Canelas of MaroonMusket.com. “He says he’s OK, so I don’t think we’ll have any issues come Saturday.”

On Friday evening, NBCSports.com confirmed that Davis participated in practice. Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette also reported the news, as Davis is expected to play against Saint Louis on Saturday evening.

The collision, which will rival any tackle we will see on Sunday in Super Bowl XLIX, was legal screen, serving as a reminder (a painful one for Davis) how important communication is on screens.

UConn advances to Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship game with 75-64 win over Dayton

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In the first of two semifinals on Friday afternoon, No. 17 UConn knocked off Dayton, 75-64, to advance to the 2014 Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship game. The Huskies will play West Virginia on Sunday afternoon.

Ryan Boatright went for a game-high 20 points to go along with five rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block. Rodney Purvis and Daniel Hamilton joined Boatright in double figures with 19 and 14, respectively. Jordan Sibert led the Flyers with 18, followed by Kendall Pollard with 15 off the bench.

The final score doesn’t indicate how close this game was for the majority of the afternoon with both teams swapping the lead back-and-forth and entering halftime tied 41-all. More than half of Dayton’s points came in the paint during the first half as tough shots by UConn, coupled with nonexistent transition defense, led to easy buckets for the Flyers.

However, the momentum swung in UConn’s favor in the midway through the second half with UConn forcing Dayton into a prolonged shooting slump. For more than five minutes, the Flyers went without a field goal as the Huskies recaptured the lead at 59-58. Amida Brimah was at the heart of the turning point. In a 15-second span, he rejected three Dayton shots. An energized UConn team responded to the defensive stand with a 3-pointer from Hamilton to take a 62-58 lead. From that point on, Dayton never cut it to a one-possession game.

The adjustment UConn made at half was a better defensive effort by UConn. In the second half, the Huskies limited Dayton to 8-of-29 shooting, forcing nine turnovers and blocking five shots. On the other end of the floor, UConn received contributions from several players. Purvis got going early with eight points before being saddled with two fouls. Hamilton also had spurt in the first half with a pair of spot-up three and another off a handoff. In the second half, while he missed all but one of his jump shots, the 6-foot-4 Purvis was effective getting to the basket, putting the final stamp on the victory with two straight layups to put UConn up 10.