After a ‘gimme’ 30-point win at home against Grambling State and a two-point upset win at Southern Methodist, the 6-2 University of Dayton Flyers entertain UNLV Wednesday night in UD Arena, with a tinge of revenge on their minds after they blew a 10-point halftime lead to the Runnin’ Rebels in Las Vegas last season and lost, 60-52.
Dayton, OH — The Nevada-Las Vegas Runnin’ Rebels are not the basketball power they once were under towel-chomping coach Jerry Tarkanian.
The current UNLV team is pedestrian, at best. They bring a 3-3 record into UD Arena Wednesday night to face Dayton’s Flyers.
They’ve beaten Stetson, Pepperdine and Akron while losing to Florida State, Richmond and Southern.
At the behest of CBS Sports-TV, the game begins at 9 p.m., past the bed time of many Flyer Faithful fans. But, as always, UD Arena will be packed with the usual 13,407 fans.
The Flyers, fresh off a quality 65-63 win at Southern Methodist, and a gimme home win over Grambling State, are 6-2 as they continue trying to build their resume’.
UD coach Anthony Grant is no different, always wary and on alert.
“We expect it to be a great opportunity and a great challenge,” he said of his team’s date with UNLV.
The Flyers lost to UNLV last season in Las Vegas, so there is a slice of revenge at play.
“We ended up being short-handed of some guys in that game,” said Grant. “They did a real good job on us with their physicality. They were a really tough team and that dictated the outcome.
“We’ll be able to go back (via film) and look at their style of play…obviously they have a lot of new faces and I haven’t had a chance to look at them yet.”
Koby Brea remembers well the 60-52 loss at the Mack Center, a game the Flyers led, 32-22, at the half.
“We did a pretty good job in the first half,” said Brea, UD’s Mister Three. “In the second half we kinda let it get away. But with the team we have now, we’re more than capable. But we have to stay focused.
“Every team we play this year, we have to have the same approach, but they (UNLV) will have had more than a week to prepare, so they’ll be ready for us.”
In the last few games, the Flyers have lived and died on three-point shooting, mostly living dangerously. After a slow start, the Flyers have dropped in threes like dropping potatoes into a wicker basket.
Threes have become the big rock candy mountain for the Flyers, chocolate cake and strawberry ice cream.
“I don’t think anybody has ever worried about our shooting,” said Brea, who has hit 11 of 18 three-pointers in the last two games. And Nate Santos was 6 for 7 from three against Grambling.
“It was getting used to play together — everybody is coming from different places (via transfers),” he added. “They had to get adjusted to playing in the Arena, get the feeling of playing with each other. Now we’ve adjusted to playing with each other and any night can be anybody’s night.”
And it isn’t just Brea and Santos sniping from long range. Others are adept — Kobe Elvis, Enoch Cheeks, Javon Bennett and even DaRon Holmes II has his three-point moments.
“I think we all saw that in practices this summer, that everybody can shoot the ball and shoot it pretty well,” said Brea. “It is one of our biggest weapons (three-pointers) and we’re doing a good job of using it.”
But it is Brea and Santos who are being called The Splash Brothers, a name hung on them by assistant coach James Kane.
Even though the Flyers punctured Grambling by 30 points (76-46), holding the Tigers to 31% shooting (18 for 59) and 11% from three (2 for 19), Grant sees space for advancement.
“What we have to continue to understand is that we have a certain standard that we want to play to,” he said. “We have to be able to do that for 40 minutes. We’ve made steps in that direction, but we haven’t been perfect, by any stretch of the imagination.
“But we’re making steps in the right direction and we’ve shown some progress with some things we need to get better at from a defensive standpoint,” he added, even though the Flyers held SMU to 63 points and Grambling to 46.
“We’re still learning the group, and learning different combinations and we see what the possibilities could be and I’m excited about it.”
One of the combinations that Grant used sporadically the last two games was playing 6-10 DaRon Holmes II and 6-11 Isaac Jack at the same time.
That takes some of the pressure and attention off Holmes and the incessant double-teaming he gets under the basket.
While Santos scored 26 and Brea 15 against Grambling, Holmes was 1 for 6 and scored only five points, 12 below his average.
“I just took what my teammates gave me as it came to me,” said Santos after his 26-point outburst.
And Brea said of his hot-shooting eruption, “I’m just trying to build up my consistency every game and in every practice. Focus on the little things to help my team win.”
Those little things lead to big things and the Flyers have big things on their minds.