Dayton fell into a familiar pattern in its 67-64 loss to Northwestern on Saturday. The Flyers and the Wildcats played in the Chicago Legends at the United Center, a double-header that also featured BYU and Illinois. This was a homecoming game for Dayton’s Kyle Davis and Kendall Pollard. The Flyers were coming off 5 straight wins and had played well against East Tennessee State, but Saturday was a different story.
Dayton came out of the gates flat in the first half. The Flyers shot just 4/28 from the field and could not hit water from the beach. Meanwhile, the Wildcats hit just about everything on their end of the floor and seemed to be getting the benefit of the doubt with the refs. The Flyers went into the locker room down 40-17; it was the team’s worst 20 minutes since the first half against Saint Mary’s earlier this year. Clearly frustrated, the Flyers came out with some fury in the second half. Dayton slowly chipped away at Northwestern’s 20 point lead and eventually got its deficit within 10. Northwestern hit a few clutch threes in the second half, and despite almost committing a turnover in the final seconds, the Wildcats would inbound the ball the length of the floor and run out the clock.
The Flyers played a great second half and almost dug themselves out of a huge deficit. The effort level was superb in the second half, but Dayton can’t expect to win games down 23 in the first half. This team has gotten off to slow starts in its other two losses, Saint Mary’s and Nebraska, but none was slower than this. Dayton scored just 5 points in the final 10 minutes of the first half. Whether it’s lack of intensity or the need to get better looks, Dayton has to avoid these slow starts against top-dog opponents. The Flyers have had a decent non-conference showing, but they’ve failed to move the needle in its tougher games.
Dayton was led by Scoochie Smith and Charles Cooke with 18 and 12 points. They were the only Flyers to score in double digits. Davis and Pollard went just 3-12 from the field. The Flyers got outrebounded 44-30 and shot just 30% from two point range on Saturday night. Northwestern was led by Sanjay Lumpkin with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Bryant McIntosh added 13 points of his own. Nathan Taphorn hit three three pointers for the Wildcats. Northwestern improves to 9-2 on the season while Dayton falls to 7-3.
The Flyers will host Vanderbilt on Wednesday in a game that they cannot afford to lose. This should be somewhat of a tune-up game, but Dayton still can’t sleep on the Commodores. This team needs to find a way to get easier looks and create offense even when shots aren’t falling. Dayton cannot afford to get off to these kind of starts any longer. Otherwise, conference play could be somewhat of a rude awakening.