The Flyers put on their own personal party against Saint Louis University at UD Arena. The score was 59-24 with nine minutes left and Saint Louis was ready to hide under its bus.
DAYTON — When Archie Miller walked into his team’s post-game locker room Wednesday night, his University of Dayton Flyers were doing everything in way of celebration short of shooting Silly String, wearing lamp shades for hats and doing the Boot Scootin’ Boogie.
“I like going into the locker room and seeing our guys smiling and having a good time,” said Miller.
A good time? The really good time was the personal party the Flyers put on against Saint Louis University on the Blackburn Court at UD Arena.
Dayton 73, Saint Louis 37. Really? No kidding? Really and no kidding.
Coming into the Atlantic 10 Conference contest, the Billikens (“What’s a Billiken, daddy?”) had scored 86, 96, 79 and 71 in their previous four games, three of them winners. They beat a solid Davidson team 96-87, most points St. Louis ever has scored on its home court.
And to make it even more brow-scrunching, the Flyers made only two of their first 10 shots of the game and 4 of their first 15.
But instead of being buried under a barrage of points, the Flyers were ahead, 10-8, nine minutes into the game because the Billikens were just as bad — four for 13.
Just before the game began, a maintenance man changed the nets on the baskets because one loop broke and was dangling from its bracket.
St. Louis coach Jim Crews had to figure while the guy was up on that ladder he nailed a lid over the rim.
The Flyers were 5 for 18 and Saint Louis 5 for 17 with 6:18 left in the half and UD led, 13-12.
That’s when UD said so long, farewell and goodbye. They outscored Saint Louis the rest of the half by 13 to 5 and took a nine-point lead into the break, leading 26-17.
At that point Saint Louis was 8 for 30 from the field, 1 for 11 from ‘three,’ 0 for 1 from the foul line and had committed seven turnovers.
The Flyers have done this before — a nice lead at the half that dissipated in the second half quicker than a piece of apple pie at a homeless shelter.
Not this time. Miller and the Flyers used the halftime rest period to discuss putting the Billikens out of their misery, or as Kendall Pollard said, “That has been our emphasis in our locker room lately, just keep our foot on the other team’s necks and don’t let ‘em come back.”
The Flyers didn’t just put a foot on the Billikens’ neck, they stood on their esophagus with both feet and jumped up and down. The Billikens couldn’t breathe, let along cry uncle.
With Pollard showing the way, the Flyers started the second half on a 10-2 run that pushed their advantage to 38-19. After a Saint Louis basket, Pollard scored eight straight points on four baskets during a 21-5 runout.
The score was 59-24 with nine minutes left and Saint Louis was ready to hide under its bus.
There have been recent games where Pollard has been The Invisible Man, on the floor, out there but contributing not much — like three points and two rebounds in 26 minutes at Fordham and no points and one rebound in 20 minutes against George Washington.
On Wednesday, he was the Tasmanian Devil to Saint Louis. He made his first eight shots, missing only his last shot, made both his free throws and snatched eight rebounds.
On one play, he grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled the length of the floor and didn’t stop until his nose was near the rim for a slam dunk.
“This game was refreshing because I haven’t been as aggressive these past few games,” he said. “I just took a deep breath tonight and played hard and was aggressive. My teammates did a good job of finding me.
“Coach Miller told me to stick with it and to not let my mental state cloud my game — just play hard,” he said. “I don’t have to prove anything to myself or anybody. I know I’m a good player and I just did what I know I can do.”
And how did the Flyers hold the high-scoring Billiken to a shameful 37 point? Well, Saint Louis made only 15 of 55 shots (27 percent) and 3 of 24 three-pointers. Mike Crawford usually makes more than three a game by himself, but he was 1 for 8 from three.
In addition, Steve McElvene was basketball’s version of a hockey goalie on this night. He protected the rim like an NHL All-Star goalie and he didn’t wear pads. The 6-foot-11 freshman tied a school record (held by many) with six blocked shots and if he had known that he would have blocked another one.
Asked if he likes to block shots, he broke into a wide-spread grin and said simply, “Yes, sir.”
McElvene said he didn’t know about tying the blocked shots record until he walked into the post-game interview room and was told.
“It feels really good to have that under my belt,” he said. “I wasn’t looking for them but they just kept coming to me. It’s just something I did.”
The other Shutdown Man, as usual, was guard Kyle Davis, who turned off the spigot of Saint Louis freshman guard Jermaine Bishop.
Bishop, wearing a plastic protective mask, scored four points on 1 of 9 shooting after winning back-to-back A10 Rookie of the Week awards, averaging 18.3 points in his last four games.
By the time this one was over, the entire Saint Louis team wished it had played this game wearing masks.
It was UD’s fifth straight win and pushed the 26th-ranked Flyers to 17-3 overall and 7-1 in the A10. Saint Louis dipped to 8-12 and 3-5.
(Edited by Julie McMaken Wright)