Dayton Does It Again
Vibes are immaculate in Dayton, OH right now. Or should I say in Charleston? It’s that time of year again where the rest of America needs to be reminded that the Dayton Flyers fan base travels well to support their beloved Flyers. The team rewarded their fans with an 88-81 victory over St. John’s in the Charleston Classic Semi-finals.
Dayton trailed St. John’s 40-38 at the half due to some strong play from former-A10 player Joel Soriano of St. John’s. Soriano finished with 21 points and battled Dayton’s own DaRon Holmes the entire game. But it was Holmes who got the last laugh, finishing with 21 points of his own, most of them in the second half of the game, propelling the Flyers to their second signature win in as many days.
One could say it was the Nate Santos show yet again. The transfer from Pitt scored 18 points in what seemed to be one foul-and-one after another. Santos was the life of the Flyers in this game a day after hitting the game winner against LSU the day before.
Here are the main takeaways that I got from today’s victory over the Red Storm:
1. This Team Has a Ton of Swagger
Maybe since the 29-2 team from 2020, this Dayton team has shown a swagger that we haven’t seen in a while. Fans have been concerned with the pace of the offense for some time now, but that seemed to go by the way side today. Dayton ran downhill on the Johnnies all game, and it eventually guided them into an eight point victory. The and-ones by Santos. The put-back dunk from Koby Brea. Javon Bennett pick-pocketing on defense. DaRon Holmes swatting shots away at the rim. The technical foul from Anthony Grant. (yes, AG is getting in on the action!). The swagger is back in Dayton. And it is fueling this team.
2. Nate Santos is Inevitable
Nate Santos. This dude was a bit invisible in the first two games of the season. Now? He has become the star of Charleston. Santos has been incredible in two games at this tournament. On Thursday, he has 19 points including the game winning shot against LSU. He backed it up with 18 points today against St. John’s. It feels like this dude is made for the big moments. Dayton is going to need it every night from him.
3. Add It To The Resume
Life as a mid-major team is difficult. By that, I mean the opportunities to build an at-large resume are few. Dayton has taken advantage of their opportunities since the loss at Northwestern last week. The wins over LSU and St. John’s will more than likely look good on the resume come Selection Sunday. Barring any truly horrible losses the rest of the way, Dayton is sitting on the right side of the bubble, even though it is very early. Dare we say this team is top 25 good?
4. Everyone is Starting to Contribute
After the first two games, it was hard to see anyone other than DaRon Holmes, Kobe Elvis, and Kobe Brea contributing majorly to the team. However, after these two games, we are starting to see the comfortability and roles of these other guys emerge. Enoch Cheeks has been hot and cold through 4 games, but today finished with 10 points. Padegimas finished with 5 points and hit a three. Isaac Jack finally looked like a great bench option to Holmes and had 4 points in 11 minutes. Zimi Nwokeji had 5 big points before leaving with foul trouble. Javon Bennett has been a beast since the Malachi Smith season-ending injury. This kind of depth will be key toward the end of the season when we get into February and March. These guys needs to keep defining their roles, and that looked like it started to happen on Friday.
Dayton will play #6 Houston on Sunday at 8:30 PM EST for the championship game. Kelvin Sampson said that this will be Houston’s “first road game of the season”, referring to the outstanding support of the Dayton fans during the tournament. Dayton has a chance to put one of the best wins by any team in the country on their resume on Sunday. With the way the Flyers are playing, why not?