Another week has passed in this college basketball season and the Dayton Flyers keep on rolling. After winning thrillers against Duquesne and Rhode Island, Dayton has now won nine games in a row. With a 21-3 overall record and sitting in first place (11-1) in the Atlantic 10, the Flyers look to crack the top 15 of this week’s AP poll. Dayton has moved up to a 4 or 5 seed in nearly every bracket projection and is having one of their most successful regular seasons ever. While the Flyers have flat out dominated at times, the majority of their games are nail-bitingly close. With such a good record, but so many close games, Dayton seems to have some sort of magical formula. Lets take a look at how the Flyers keep pulling out wins in crunch time.
So far this season the Dayton Flyers are 10-2 in games decided by eight points or less. Dayton’s ability to win close games is a testament to both their upperclassmen’s leadership and overall team’s mentality. While the Flyer’s only have two seniors, Dyshawn Pierre and former walk-on Bobby Wherli, they have an extremely experienced junior class. Junior starters Kendall Pollard, Scoochie Smith, and Kyle Davis were all freshmen who played roles in Dayton’s 2014 Elite 8 run. In the year following the deep March run, the Flyers used a small seven man rotation. Combining those two years leaves the Flyers with battle tested juniors. Add in Charles Cooke, the redshirt junior transfer from James Madison, and Dayton’s leadership is as strong as ever. In fact, the list of Dayton’s leaders in points, rebounds, assists, and steals per game is chalked full of juniors. While the Flyers have five freshmen that all play valuable time, their ability to win the close games is a credit to their upperclassmen. Dayton’s juniors and seniors have been through so many tough battles over their careers it’s difficult to faze them.
The unique mentality Dayton brings into each game is a credit to not only the players, but also Archie Miller and his coaching staff. Under former head coach Brian Gregory, it felt at times like the Flyers just could not get over the hump. More times than not, they would suffer tough losses in the close games. Since Archie Miller has arrived at Dayton, he has brought a total mindset change. Now both the Flyer players and faithful fans expect to win every game they play. Anytime Miller’s players step out onto the court, he has them ready for a difficult battle and capable of winning a close game. Under Archie Miller, the Flyers have and continue to thrived in crunch time.
To find evidence of Dayton’s remarkable ability to win close games, one must look no further than last week. Down 12 in the second half at home against Duquesne, the Flyers came all the way back to win. Even when the Duke’s lead seemed almost insurmountable and Dayton had no momentum, the Flyers kept spirit alive. After the game Miller said redshirt junior Charles Cooke was “very encouraging with his words, no one hung their heads.” Just a few days later on this past Friday, Dayton found themselves in another battle on the road at Rhode Island. The Flyers led by eight with a little over ten minutes to go before the Rams stormed back to take a three point lead with 3:22 to go. Dayton might have blown their lead, but did not lose the game. They hung on to win another close thriller 68-66. This ability to overcome adversity and pull out wins in nail-biting games has resulted in much success for Dayton these last few years. It will certainly pay off once again come March. The Flyers have a huge game Wednesday night at St. Joe’s. We’ll find out if they can win what should be another close one.