Dayton is statistically the best 3-point shooting team in the Atlantic 10, but coach Archie Miller wants his players to be selective, and they were able to launch only four against Butler because of an absence of quality looks.
“You can tell Butler’s game plan. They don’t leave good shooters. I think they play the numbers game in terms of making other guys beat you,” Miller said.
The 12th-seeded Flyers finished 2-for-4 and hit 38.4 percent for the year, the second-best mark in program history. But Miller wanted most shots to come inside, which is how his team hit 50 percent or better in its previous six games and 49.1 in a 73-67 Atlantic 10 tourney loss Thursday.
“We were able to get point-blank (shots) as many times as we tried. … If you look at our percentages over the course of the season, there’s a reason for our field-goal percentage and some of the efficiency we had. With a pretty new team — in some cases, with three freshmen on the floor — we’ve been able to do that. The 3-point line wasn’t going to be a factor for us winning or losing offensively.”
Not so fast: The Flyers ended the first half on an 8-3 run to trail only 33-30 and then started the second half on a 13-6 surge for a 43-39 edge with just more than 15 minutes to go.
But after coach Brad Stevens called a timeout, the fifth-seeded Bulldogs hit 3-pointers on their next three possessions — nine points in a 75-second span.
“That got us stabilized and gave us a little belief over the final 10 minutes. And then a series of plays in the middle of the second half separated us a little more,” Stevens said.
Trailing 53-50, UD had a numbers advantage on a fastbreak, but junior guard Vee Sanford kept the ball and missed a floater. Center Andrew Smith then slipped free for a layup to make it 55-50 with 8:20 to go.
The Bulldogs took a 10-point edge with 5:15 left after converting turnovers by Sanford and Kevin Dillard into fastbreak points.
“They’re tournament tough. That’s kind of a word you’ve got to use when you deal with those guys,” Miller said. “The game is never over when you play them. They’re so well-coached and they execute so well, you almost feel like every possession, they’re able to pick you apart.”
While their defense failed them (a common theme), the Flyers can’t be faulted for their offense. They shot 47.5 percent from the field this season, their best mark since also shooting 47.5 in 1988-89, coach Don Donoher’s last season. They shot 49.0 the season before that.
But UD allowed foes to shoot 43.4 percent this season and 44.8 last year. Those are the highest percentages since a 44.1 clip in 2000-01.
So long: Forward Josh Benson had 18 points, his highest output in an A-10 game this season. And Dillard followed a season-long pattern of coming on strong in the second half, tallying 13 of his 15 points after halftime.
Going into the game, Dillard was averaging 6.3 points in the first half this season and 15.3 overall.
Opening his postgame press conference with that senior pair at his side, Miller said: “I’d like to give these two guys sitting to the right of me a great deal of credit. I’ve got a lot of admiration for the guys who have been here for my two years because none of them signed up for me.
“It’s one of those things where you walk into a situation and never know what you’re going to get. From the start of this thing all the way to today, these two guys embraced what we tried to do and dealt with a lot of change and done a very, very good job of it. Not only are they both really good players and have bright futures, they’re good guys, and I’d like to thank them.”