The Flyers, down by four with eight minutes left, spliced together a 9-0 run to take the lead, and the game, and left the Arena a howling jungle.
DAYTON — At one point during stoppage of play Friday night in UD Arena, George Washington University’s Kevin Larsen walked up to the University of Dayton’s Charles Cooke and said, “Hey, I remember you. You played at James Madison a few years ago and we played you.”
It wasn’t long after that, when most of the 12,831 in the UD Arena crowd erupted in roof-rattling support of the Flyers that Larsen realized he wasn’t playing in James Madison’s gym on this night. He was standing in the middle of a big-time stage.
The Flyers, down by four with eight minutes left, spliced together a 9-0 run to take a five-point lead with four minutes left and the Arena was a howling jungle.
The Colonials got within three a couple of times, the last time with 31 seconds left, but the Flyers pushed them away and walked off with a big Atlantic 10 victory, 77-70.
After a mind-fogging loss at lowly LaSalle last Saturday, the Flyers bounced back against two top-tier conference teams, Davidson and George Washington, to record important successes.
UD moved to 14-3 overall and 4-1 in the A-10 and George Washington slithered to 14-4 and 3-2.
This night belonged to Dyshawn Pierre and it was evident it was his night when he scored UD’s first eight points, six on a pair of three-pointers. From there it took it to 26 points on 7 of 11 shooting (five of nine from the three-point line) and seven-for-seven at the foul line.
It was his official coming-out party, his best game, by far, since coming off suspension in late December.
As he shed rust, his shooting over the past few games got better and better and on Friday night it was nearly impeccable.
And how did he get there? By shooting 100 extra shots after practices nearly every night.
“I’ve been taken extra shots after practice with the coaches and my coaches and teammates have a lot of confidence in me coming back,” said Pierre. “Ive been in a shooting slump but they tell me just to keep shooting the ball. And tonight? I actually made some.
Indeed he did.
After making his first three shots of the game (“When you make your first one it gives you confidence, but if you miss it makes you lose some confidence.”) to give the Flyers an 8-7 lead, the Flyers built an eight-point lead, 23-15, but fell behind just before the half by two points.
Who came to the rescue? Dyshawn Pierre. He swished a long three-pointer four second before halftime to give UD a 35-34 lead.
The teams stayed close in the second half until George Washington built the four-point lead, 61-57, with eight minutes left.
That’s when the Flyers scored nine straight to take the front seat. Scoochie Smith made a free throw, Charles Cooke, Kyle Davis scored on an end-to-end layup after he grabbed a defensive rebound, with the Flyers up by two, 63-61, that man named Pierre buried a three-pointer.
And the Flyers never trailed again.
Other than making 16 of 17 free throws and committing only six turnovers, how did the Flyers win this one?
Starter Kendall Pollard did not score and had one rebound. Four fouls made him invisible. GW outrebounded the Flyers, 40-29. The Colonials made 11 of 22 three-pointers to UD’s 9 of 22. GW shots 47.4 per cent to UD’S 42.6 per cent.
Yes, numbers can lie
Steve McElvene came off the bench to pick up Pollard with 12 points (5 for 7) and six rebounds and Cooke, who missed the last game due to injury, was 3 for 9 at the half but finished 6 for 16 and scored 15 points.
The crowd, waving white towels and drowning out the very loud UD pep band down the stretch, helped make a difference — at least coach Archie Miller believes so.
“A fantastic night and I can’t thank the fans enough because the Arena rose to the occasion,” said Miller. “A big shout out and thank you to the crowd. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.”
Nor would they have been able to do it without Pierre, McElvene and Cookie on this night.
“The last four minutes we buckled down and were able to get some key stops,” said Miller. “We made some plays. Our offense didn’t go away tonight and we had very few droughts. McElvene was very big tonight, being able to play 26 minutes and be effective on the offensive end.”
“It looked as if Dyshawn finally has his legs under him again and he has worked very hard on his shot,” said Miller. “He had no turnovers and made some threes None of the shots he has been taking in previous game were bad, he just hadn’t gotten into a rhythm. He was big-time tonight.
“And I like that we handled a tough loss (at LaSalle) the last couple of games the way we need to do it,” Miller added.
At one point, George Washington employed a 1-3-1 zone defense, a defense all year that has strangled and gagged the Flyers. But not this time.
“I was really nervous coming into the game because we’ve struggled against the 1-3-1 a bunch,” said Miller “But we had Dyshawn in the middle and he can really handle ball. He made good plays and we pinged around from corner to corner. We didn’t neglect Steve McElvene under the basket. He got touches, got the ball near the rim and that’s really powerful. It’s the first time we’ve been able to get him the ball around the basket against the 1-3-1 and that’s Dyshawn. He put Steve into a chance to be successful five or six times.”
Pierre aims all his success at his teammates, “Because they get me the ball and they trust me to shoot the ball. I felt it tonight and they were falling.”
Pierre also exchanged competitive pushes and shoves with GW’s Tyler Cavanaugh, who led the Colonials with 18 points on 7 of 10 shooting.
“He is a very tough player and we recruited him (before he went to GW),” said Pierre. “It was good that we were able to contain him somewhat even though he shot the ball very well.”
The Flyers had to feel as if they were playing a United nations All-Star team. Three of GW’s starters are from outside the United States — Patrick Garino (Argentina), Yuta Watanabe (Japan) and Kevin Larsen Denmark.
But the Flyers had the trumps.
“The crowd, the crazy atmosphere, being the big game on ESPN were all factors in us getting the win tonight,” said Pierre.
Oh, yeah. Pierre is from Canada, but even with three international players on the other team Pierre was the winner of The Best Foreign Player on the Floor award.
(Edited By Jule McMaken Wright)