The Flyers avenged an ugly loss from a year ago, held one of the country’s best shooters at bay, and left Philly with a 74-62 win Saturday over St. Joseph.
Philadelphia, PA — On many trips to The City of Brotherly love, the Dayton Flyers would have been better served to visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell than play a basketball game.
There has been little love from Philadelphia for the Flyers over the years. For example, before Saturday afternoon UD had lost 10 of its last 11 games in Hagan Arena, home to the Saint Joseph’s Hawks. Some of those losses were dealt UD by not very good teams.
And last year was the ugliest of the ugly. The Hawks undressed the Flyers right down to their sneakers, 97-84 — the most points scored against a UD team in 20 years.
And three guys who scored 70 of those 97 big ones were on the Hagan Arena floor Saturday afternoon — Taylor Funk, Jordan Hall and Cameron Brown. And Funk scored 36 last year.
Not this time, fellas. The Flyers held that trio to 24 points, only four by Funk, en route to a 74-62 victory.
And, yes, defense travels.
The statistical sheet says the Flyers could have left R.J. Blakney back at Milano’s Pizza on Brown Street in Dayton. The stat sheet sometimes lies and this one did…blatantly. It says Blakney took one shot and didn’t score.
But he was the primary defender on Funk and covered him like a Venus fly trap. Funk got off only four shots.
“Taylor Funk is one of the elite shooters in the country,” coach Anthony Grant told Larry Hansgen on the post-game show. “To look at the stat sheet and see him getting up only two three-point shots, that was huge for our cause.
“Indeed, the stat sheet doesn’t really tell you everything,” Grant added. “He got up one shot, but R.J. was the primary defender on Funk and did an unbelievable job. And Hall is an elite talent and we made it very difficult for him and all of them.”
And it helps when you pack your offense for the trip, too. The Flyers did that with their normal dispersal of balanced scoring, five Flyers in double figures.
The two Fabulous Freshmen, Malachi Smith and DaRon Holmes II, were not around for that shellacking last season. And they made certain history would not repeat itself.
Smith scored 16 points, dished six assists and despite being the shortest player on the floor, captured 10 rebounds. Holmes had 18 points and snagged 10 rebounds.
Mix in 14 points by Toumani Camara, 13 by Kobe Elvis and 10 by Koby Brea and the Flyers could thumb their noses at the Ben Franklin statue atop City Hall as they left town.
Of Smith’s all-around play, Grant said, “Well, he is a competitor. He made plays on both sides of the ball for us. But it was really a team effort.”
And the Flyers continued their march toward a possible Atlantic 10 title. Their fourth straight win pushed their overall record to 19-8 and their league work sheet to 11-3.
The Flyers were on a foreign and unfriendly court , but shot like champion trap shooters. They hit 26 of 48 shots (52.6%) and used the three-point weapon judiciously, 5 for 11 (45/5%).
UD is 11-and-0 this season when it shoots better than 40% from beyond the stripe. And when 6-foot-8 Camara guided home a three in the first half with 13:03 left they could have turned out the lights and save on the electric bill. When the big man has hit at least one three, the Flyers have won their last six games.
On the other side, Saint Joseph’s (10-15, 4-10) lives or dies on the three-pointers. UD fed them arsenic — 8 for 23 from three (36.4%) and 21-53 (39.6%) overall.
“We were really good on defense,” said Grant. “Coming into the game the emphasis was on being able to limit their opportunities at the three-point line. Our guys understood the scouting report and what we needed to do today to make it very difficult.
“They are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country and when they get it going they can really change the game,” Grant added.
Even the Hawks who did score cluttered the box score with a lot of missed shots.Freshman Erik Reynolds led the way with 16 points, but was 5 for 14 from the field and 1 for 6 from three. Ejike Obinna scored 12 and needed 12 shots to make his five baskets.
From an 11-11 tie with 12:48 to go in the first half, the Flyers outscored the Hawks 19-8 in a seven-minute span to grab a 30-19 lead.
A minor spurt by Saint Joseph’s cut it to 38-30 at the half. The Flyers, though, began the second half by scoring nine of the first 11 points for a 47-32 lead.
The margin reached 17, 58-41, with 8 1/2 minutes left and some sloppy play at the end made it look closer than it was.
“We understood today what we needed to take away from this team, which is a very, very talented offensive team,” said Grant. “They can put up numbers on you. I look across the board and see only 62 points we gave up and we made if difficult for them at the three-point line.
“They’ve been averaging over 30 threes (attempts) over the last three games and had a chance to win all three (but lost all three). . .we did a really good job today.”
The Flyers get a chance Wednesday to do another really good job when they play Massachusetts, another A-10 bottom feeder, at UD Arena at 7 p.m.