When the outside shots aren’t falling, it is a good thing for the University of Dayton basketball team that it has DaRon Holmes II roaming near the basket. The Flyers trailed St. Bonaventure, 30-28, at the half, but pushed the ball inside to Holmes and he scored 25 of his 34 points in the second half to send UD to a 76-71 win.
Dayton, OH. — No matter the outcome — and usually they feel the harsh sting of defeat — opposing coaches love to parade their teams in front of 13,407 fans in the University of Dayton Arena.
For the 55th straight game there was a full house Friday night for the Dayton-St. Bonaventure game.
And the Bonnies put up the good fight as coach Mark Schmidt coached his brains out, coached his heart out and wore his feet out trying to avoid the inevitable, a 76-71 black-and-blue bruise loss to the Flyers.
On Tuesday, George Washington coach Chris Caputo said, “This is a great building to play in and coach in.”
And he uttered those words after the Flyers gut-punched GW, 83-61.
Before Friday’s game, St. Bonaventure’s Schmidt said, “This is fun. This is why you play college basketball — to play in environments like this. It’s a great, great atmosphere.”
The fun, though, was all Dayton’s, well DaRon Holmes II’s fun, on the Blackburn Court as he whipped in 34 points, tying his career best.
During those 55 sellouts, the Flyers are 49-6 in front of the adoring and ultra-loud Flyer Faithful. That has to take a heaping portion of the fun away from opposing coaches who must endure the close-up insults hurled their way by the Red Scare student section.
The Flyers are 11-0 at home this year, 18-3 for the season, 8-1 in Atlantic 10 competition.
So what was it like Friday night? It was Deja Holmes all over again, another game that he took a personal grasp on and choked 34 points out of it, 25 in the second half.
Just as he has done in several other games, the 6-10 junior from Goodyear, AZ., was hotter than a Phoenix solar panel in August just when the team needed him most.
From the time the Flyers led, 52-50, with 8 1/2 minutes left, Holmes went off like a short-fused firecracker. He scored 16 of his team’s final 24 points.
While doing it, Holmes fouled out two St. Bonaventure big men. The first to go was 6-foot-11 Noel Brown with 3:59 left. Then it was the Bonnies’ best player, 6-foot-10 Chad Venning, whistled to the bench with 3:22 left.
That permitted Holmes to roam unimpeded and his teammates fed him the ball and he scored 12 points in the final three minutes.
And his last basket came off a stolen pass with Holmes breaking free. Chasing Holmes when he is ahead of the pack is a trivial pursuit. He applied pain to the rim as he crushed a two-handed stuff that gave the Flyers a 76-69 lead with 10 seconds left.
He was like an open faucet. . .he kept pouring in baskets and they kept fouling him. He was 10 for 15 from the field and 13 for 17 from the foul line.
Asked if it was impossible to stop Holmes after his two big men fouled out, Schmidt said, “Yeah, yeah. We had a hard time stopping Holmes. evem with our two big guys in there.
“He is just a real good player and maybe we could have played a little bit of zone against him, but they are so good because they surround Holmes with ieood shooters,” added Schmidt. “We tried to double him, but you can’t do the same thing over and over to him. He’s a good passer and a difficult cover. That’s why they are so good.”
When St. Bonaventure (13-8, 4-5) missed its first five shots and turned the ball over three times, Dayton jumped to a 7-0 lead and owned a 13-4 lead with 13 minutes to go.
But the Bonnies went on a scoring adventure, outperforming the Flyers 26-15 to take a 30-28 halftime lead.
Holmes began his One Man Opera in earnest to start the second half by scoring UD’s first eight points, then feeding Enoch Cheeks for a fast break basket and a 38-38 tie.
But Holmes encountered foul difficulties of his own and coach Anthony Grant pulled him for 6 1/2 minutes. His back-up, 6-11 sophomore Isaac Jack, made all three of his shot attempts and yanked down six rebounds to help keep the Flyer afloat.
“That game felt like a heavyweight fight,” said Grant. “We grew up tonight as a team and we’re hitting the home stretch. We’re halfway through (league play) and the back nine is coming up.”
The Flyers still trail Richmond (8-0) and the Spiders play fellow city dwellers VCU Saturday night. UD lost to Richmond and is begging for help from somebody because Richmond does not come to Dayton this season.
And DaRon? More DaRon?
“DaRon has the ability to draw a lot of attention,” said Grant. “He has seen a lot of different coverages all year. His team did a great job of getting him the basketball and I thought he did a good job of making himself available.
“He did a good job of mixing it up, passing the ball out of the post and then being aggressive and drawing fouls as well,” said Grant.
While Holmes was making 13 of 17 from the foul line and the Flyers were 23 for 29, St. Bonaventure was 5 for 8.
“We lost the game at the foul line,” said Schmidt. “We went to the foul line eight times, they went to the foul line 29 times.”
That’s because his team had to foul Holmes in an attempt to disrupt his path to the rim.
“We had more fast break points than they had (8-6), we had more points off of turnovers (11-10) and we had more second chance points (16-13),” added Schmidt.
And the Bonnies had 35 points off the bench to UD’s 15. But thanks to Holmes planting his flag near the basket, the Flyer outscored the Bonnies in the paint, 42-30.
After trailing St. Bonaventure 30-28 at the half, the Flyers won the second half, 48-41, behind Holmes 25 second half points.
“We stayed very disciplined,” said Holmes. “We went in (at halftime) and saw what we needed to fix. We had to lock in and make sure we executed. We did a very good job of going out there and doing well what we do as a team.”
The Flyers still are having to answer questions about their loss at Richmond, even after wins over George Washington and St. Bonaventure.
“Like I’ve mentioned before, it (the Richmond game) was an off night,” said Holmes. “We have to stay disciplined and consistent and we did a very good job of that today of mixing it up.
“We have one of the best shooting teams in the country, but we weren’t hitting too many,” Holmes added “So what are we gonna do? Are we gonna die by it or mix it up and go inside? We did a very good job of establishing that.”
Without Holmes’ 11 for 15, 1 for 1 from three, the rest of the Flyers were an uncharacteristic 14 for 37. Nate Santos and Javon Bennett were 1 for 5, Kobe Elvis was 2 for 8 and Koby Brea was 3 for 7, but 1 for 4 from three.
The Flyers were 1 for 12 shooting threes in the first half and finished 3 for 15.
They quit shooting threes in the second half and put it in the hands of Holmes within reaching distance of the rim.
And he became well-acquainted with it.