The UD Flyers were strangely underdogs for a game Friday night at Duquesne, but whomever decided that didn’t take into consideration what DaRon Holmes II can do and he showed it with 33 points and scored 13 of 15 points during a late-game spree that pushed the Flyers from a 4-point lead to a 14-point lead for a 72-62 win.
Pittsburgh, PA. – For some inexplicable reason that only Las Vegas is privy to, the 12-2 University of Dayton Flyers were 1 1/2-point underdogs for their exercise at 9-5 Duquesne Friday night.
Apparently, word about DaRon Holmes II hasn’t reached Sin City and maybe the oddsmakers should stick to the roulette wheel.
Holmes played an extraordinarily exquisite game as the Flyers pasted Duquesne, 72-62, expanding Dayton’s winning streak to 10 straight and lifted its Atlantic 10 record to 3-0.
The 33 points Holmes scored isn’t even half the story of what he did on the UPMS Cooper Fieldhouse floor. Neither does his three 3-pointers, nor his 12 rebounds, nor his two assists.
It was what he did late in the second half when he most likely said to himself, “Give me the basketball, this game belongs to me.”
The Flyers were on cruise control with a 14-point lead, 45-31, but the plucky Dukes exploded on a 10-point run to close within four, 45-41.
That’s when Holmes displayed why he is on the John Wooden Watch List for national player of the year.
He scored 13 of the Flyers next 15 points and when he wiped his hands UD was back on top by 14, 61-47, and it was all over but the head-shaking by defeated and deflated Duquesne.
And here is how it went.
Holmes, 3-pointer (48-41).
Holmes, reverse dunk — backwards over his head. (50-41).
Holmes, underneath, fouled, completes three-point play (53-42)
Holmes, 3-pointer (56-44).
Javon Bennett temporarily stuck his nose into The Holmes Show with a tear drop in the lane.
Holmes, 3-pointer, 61-47.
From there, Holmes said to his teammates, “OK, guys, take it the rest of the way.”
And they did — a dunk by Enoch Cheeks, a 3-pointer by Koby Brea and six straight free throws by Bennett, Cheeks and Nate Santos.
“When they made their run, Holmes answered their run by taking the game over,” said UD coach Anthony Grant on his postgame show with Larry Hansgen. “He made a huge block when it was a four-point game.
“Then he hits back-to-back threes, drives for a basket and hits a free throw. . .he just completely took the game over,” he added. “When they had momentum, their crowd got into it, but he took that away, right away. And that’s what a great player does.”
And the extra positive facet about Holmes that he is completely unselfish. In scoring the 33 points, one short of his career high scored against George Washington last season, he took only 18 shots and made 12, 3 of 5 on 3-pointers.
“That’s the thing with him,” said Grant. “Sometimes you want him to be more selfish.”
And Grant took the prize for the year’s biggest understatement when he said, “DaRon Holmes was the best player on the floor.”
The Flyers opened the game playing like smooth operators, bolting to a 13-2 lead. The Dukes missed seven of their first eight shots.
They were sloppy and suddenly the Flyers matched the sloppiness with a bundle of turnovers that enabled Duquesne to slip back into contention.
The Flyers overcame their penchant for throwing away the ball, 17 turnovers, by completely commanding the backboards and with stifling defense.
UD outboarded the Dukes, 39-27, and had 13 offensive boards that produced 16 points. Holmes captured five offensive boards
Defense? Duquesne puts a three-headed guard trio on the floor. Miami (O) transfer Dae Dae Grant averaged 18.6, Jimmy Clark 16.2 and Kareem Rozier 7.6.
Grant scored 14, but was scoreless in the first half (0 for 6) and scored Duquesne’s last 12 points when the Dukes were already done. Clark scored 12 and Rozier added six.
“Dae Dae is one of the best guards in our league, one of the best guards in the country,” said Grant. “So we came in with a sense of urgency, understanding that he is capable of having big nights. We wanted to make sure we made it as difficult for him as possible.
“We had success doing that,” he added. “In the last eight minutes he was able to get a few, but overall we made it difficult for him. They have a three-headed monster in the back court and that was our focus.”
The Flyer also overcame an off night by Kobe Elvis, who scored one point and committed four turnovers.
“This was a great college basketball game, great A10 environment,” said Grant. The fieldhouse was full, many seats occupied by vociferous UD fans.
“Duquesne is a good team. We set the tone with defense in the first half and were able to withstand their runs.
Holmes was the One-Man Scoring Machine, the only Flyer in double figures, but he had comfort aid from his teammates.
Santos had nine points and contributed eight rebounds. Bennett had nine points, was his usual pest on defense, passed out six assists, snatched a couple of steals and had only one of UD’s 17 turnovers.
Isaac Jack came off the bench and produced six points (3 for 4), three rebounds, two steals, two assists and two blocked shots in only 14 1/2 minutes.
“The energy and effort we got on the defensive side. . .Enoch Cheeks set the tone. Javon Bennett had a great night. Isaac Jack came in and gave us great minutes,” said Grant. “We competed the way you have to compete to get a road win.”
The Flyers opened Atlantic 10 play with a dominating defeat of Davidson on the road, beat Massachusetts at home and made it 3-0 with Friday’s win at Duquesne, which is situated on what they call The Bluff in Pittsburgh.
But the Flyers weren’t bluffing.