Adversity rears its ugly head in many ways and the University of Dayton responded to adversity on several fronts, a 23-12 deficit early in a game at Saint Joseph’s and an ‘off’ night by DaRon Holmes II. But his supporting cast took on starring roles Tuesday night in hostile Hagan Arena to score a 94-79 Atlantic 10 victory to remain tied for first place with Richmond.
Philadelphia, PA. — The University of Dayton Flyers proved something to the rest of the Atlantic 10 Conference and something to themselves Tuesday night in hostile enemy territory.
They can withstand adversity on several levels, something they proved with a raucous 94-79 victory over Saint Joseph’s in noisy Hagan Arena.
And their glossy record zipped to 19-3 and 9-1 in the A10, still sharing first place with Richmond.
First of all, they showed they don’t need 20 or more points from DaRon Holmes II to win an important game on the road. . .or anywhere.
No, it wasn’t Holmes on this night. He scored only 13 points, nine under his average, and took only nine shots. He made four baskets and all four were slam-dunk flushes.
It was Nate Santos with 21 points, 19 in the second half, five rebounds, two steals and two assists.
“Nate was able to get free and get going tonight,” said Flyer coach Anthony Grant.
Going? Santos was in motion like the Energizer Bunny on a caffeine high.
It was Kobe Elvis with 21 points and 10 assists.
“Kobe Elvins did a great job of being aggressive and attacking,” said Grant. He didn’t say it, but both Santos and Elvis had been pretty much non-entities and non-factors in recent games that were dominated by Holmes.
It was JaVon Bennett with 18 points, four rebounds, four assists and lockdown defense.
It was Enoch Cheeks with 12 points, seven rebound and an all-around floor exercise.
The game was advertised as a match-up between the A10s top two scorers, Holmes at 20 a game and St. Joe’s Erik Reynolds II at 19.
Reynolds had scored in double figures in 39 straight games, but the Flyers frustrated and frustrated him, holding him to six points on 2 for 11 shooting, 1 for 8 from three.
Reynolds must have thought he needed mosquito repellant as UD’s Bennett, all 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds of him, was on him, stuck to him like a puppy following his master.
“JaVon Bennett made it very difficult on Reynolds tonight. Y’know, he is an elite player and he had to work for everything he got tonight,” said Grant.
Everything he got? He got nothing.
After making 5 of their first 8 threes, the Hawks only made 8 of their next 29 — 13 for 37 for the game.
What other adversity did the Flyers encounter?
With a target on their backs as large as a full moon, the Flyers had to withstand a blazing start by the Hawks.
St. Joe’s came out running at full-throttle and made five of their first eight three-pointers en route to a 23-12 lead.
The Hawks finally had cold water splashed on their shooting arms and UD barged back to take a 24-23 lead on an Elvis conventional three-point play.
It was the Flyers only lead of the first half and St. Joe’s led at the half, 41-37.
Then came the second half and total annihilation and destruction. The Flyers soared, a 24-3 start to the second half and a 61-44 lead.
During that sprintout, Santos scored 11 straight points, all 11 that UD scored in that span.
“Our guys showed great resilience,” said Grant. “We knew there would be a lot of emotion in the game.”
It was emotional and hostile, so hostile that St. Joe’s Anthony Finkley was ejected for a flagrant foul, an elbow to the face of Santos.
“They came out on fire,” said Grant. “Their first six minutes, they jumped on us.”
The heavy jumper was Cameron Brown — 13 points in the first half and he hit 5 of his 6 shots, three for four on threes. But he added only six in the second half for 19 to lead the Hawks.
Lynn Greer III, a transfer from Dayton to St. Joe’s, scored 18, but most were harmless in the second half.
“Our guys understood it was going to be a 40-minute game and we needed to stay the course and believe in what we were doing,” said Grant.
The Flyers were 4 for 10 on threes in the first half and finished 12 for 22, draining several big threes in the final 20 minutes.
Mostly, though, they took the ball to the basket for easy lay-ins or trudged to the foul line, where they were 16 for 22.
“In the second half we were able to come out and do it a little bit on our own,” said Grant. “We did a great job defensively and attacking offensively. We understood where we had some advantages and made some adjustments for the second half based on some things they were doing in the first half..”
“Everybody contributed, a lot of great efforts all across the board that enabled us to get the road win,” said Grant.
As for Holmes making a cameo appearance, Grant said, “That’s a part of it. Every game is different, every night is a different opportunity, a different challenge. All the guys stepped up tonight. The adversity hit us early and we were able to respond.”
Holmes had scored 34 and 25 in his previous two games against St. Bonaventure and George Washington that earned him A10 Player of the Week for the fourth time in the last six weeks.
It will be another different game on another night, an even bigger challenge Friday night when the Flyers visit arch-rival Virginia Commonwealth. The Rams did UD a huge favor by beating Richmond and would love to do Richmond a favor by beating Dayton.
The Flyers escaped a trap game at Saint Joseph’s, but that’s an even bigger trap, a bear trap, the Flyers must avoid at VCU.