After VCU upset Richmond Saturday, dropping the Spiders into an 8-1 tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 Conference with Dayton, the Flyers have to tough assignments on the road this week, first Tuesday at Saint Joseph’s, then Friday at VCU.
Dayton, OH — It isn’t likely that University of Dayton basketball coach Anthony Grant will send an embossed, monogrammed, hand-written thank-you note to Virginia Commonwealth coach Ryan Odom.
That might be apropos, but Grant claims he doesn’t hear outside noise and focuses completely on his team. His constant mantra is, “We’re just trying to be the best version of ourselves.”
There is no doubt, though, that somebody whispered in his ear, “Hey, coach, VCU beat Richmond.”
VCU’s 63-52 win over Richmond Saturday dropped the Spiders into an 8-1 tie for first place with Dayton in the Atlantic 10 conference.
While that’s all well and very, very good for the Flyers, Grant knows that jubilation is not warranted. There is work to do, work to make certain his team is focused and prepared for the week ahead.
On Tuesday, the Flyers are in Philadelphia to play Saint Joseph’s, then it is on to VCU on Friday and the Rams would like nothing better than to do to Dayton what it did to Richmond.
And it won’t be as easy for UD as a DaRon Holmes II slam dunk on an open fast break.
First he must make certain the Flyers aren’t looking past Tuesday’s opponent toward Friday’s opponent.
Saint Joseph’s is 15-7. 5-4 in the A10 and it would behoove the Flyers to pay attention to court business and not be distracted by the future or the Saint Joseph’s Hawk mascot flapping his wings non-stop.
And it will be another game in cozy confines, Hagan Arena, which is more like a high school gym than an arena with 4,200 seats.
The Hawks are 10-2 in Hagan and lost a 96-88 overtime game to Kentucky in Rupp Arena. But Saint Joseph’s also has lost road games to a pair of A10 bottom feeders, Rhode Island and Saint Louis.
Then it’s on to Richmond again, this time to play VCU (14-8, 6-3) in the 7,637-seat Siegel Center, where it can be as noisy as Richmond International Airport when the Rams are rolling.
Two of VCU’s three A10 defeats are to St. Bonaventure and the other is an 84-82 home loss to George Washington. The Rams also lost a home game to Norfolk State.
But the Rams acquitted themselves with style in the ESPN/Disney tournament in Orlando, losing to Iowa Stata by only 68-63 and defeating the Big Ten’s Penn Sate, 84-74.
After the Flyers held off St. Bonaventure in UD Arena Friday, 76-71, in a nail-chewer, Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said, “We didn’t start off well early. We played on our heels. Against Dayton, if you play on your heels things are not going to go your way.”
And they didn’t, thanks to Da-Man Holmes II scoring 25 of his 34 points in the second half to once against hoist the Flyers on his coat hanger shoulders and carry them across the finish line in front.
When the game is in disputed, Holmes becomes as serious as a stray bullet in the second half and in the waning minutes of a game.
Holmes is respected as one of the best of the best in the entire USofA and every opposing coach says it and shows it by concocting every defense known to the basketball world, and some unknown, to shackle Holmes.
Usually it doesn’t work. And the best thing about Holmes is that he is as humble as the proverbial pie, deflecting praise to his teammates. He has a heart as big as an 18-wheeler and drives to the basket like one.
“It means everything to me,” said Holmes. “It is instinctual. We trust each other. I trust them as well.”
Mostly, though, it is, “In Da-Ron we trust.”
Added Holmes, “There might be a game where it’s not going to me late in the game. But my goal is to do what I can to win. I just try to feel it out. If it’s them trapping me, I just need to pass it so we can get an open three, that’s what it is. If it’s me going inside trying to score or creating for my teammates, that’s what it is.”
Did we mention that Holmes is as unselfish as Santa Claus as he passes out the gifts of open shots?
“It is just good to mix it up and I’m glad to have my teammates’ trust and have us follow the game plan,” he added.
For certain, the Flyers need to be on the toes of their sneakers, no heels allowed, for their road foray this week.
And there is the national rankings and the NCAA Evaluation Tool, the NET, that is used to pick at-large tournament teams. CBS Sports this week reckoned that UD is the No. 8 team in the nation.
While Grant says he pays no attention to it, that it is all meaningless until the schedule is completed, Holmes says, “We definitely feel the buzz. It’s amazing, it’s a blessing. It shows all the work we’ve put in. But we have to stay disciplined and keep working hard and to continue to try to be the best versions of ourselves.
The best version? Wonder where he heard that one?