From Anthony Grant’s embrace of University of Dayton President Eric F. Spina when he walked to the bench as Dayton Flyers coach for the first time to the two memorable dunks by Kostas Antetokounmpo to the sight of a healthy Josh Cunningham dominating in every phase of the game, all went right Saturday night for UD.
The Flyers, with two top-100 recruits on the roster, should control an exhibition game against a Division II opponent. Nevertheless, considering all that had happened since the last time Dayton fans saw their team in action, this was a feel-good victory in almost every way.
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Here are five takeaways from Dayton’s 79-61 win over Ohio Dominican:
1. General impressions: The Flyers broke open the game in the final eight minutes of the first half and led 37-28 at halftime. They opened the second half on a 9-2 run. They pushed the lead to as many as 30 points with 3:59 to play.
Dayton made 27 of 47 shots from 2-point range (57.4 percent) but 6 of 22 from 3-point range (27.3). They struggled at the free-throw line, making 7 of 14.
Cunningham led the team with 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds. Darrell Davis scored 14 points and made 2 of 3 3-pointers.
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What most impressed Grant was his team’s effort and poise.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys out there,” he said. “It was there first chance of getting out there in front of a crowd. It was the first opportunity to play a game. Tonight, for the most part, we had really consistent effort. The thing I told them before the game is what we wanted to see was continued improvement. For the most part, we were able to do that. We were able to play through some adversity with foul trouble and maybe a few turnovers that were untimely. I thought we played through some positive runs that can cause distraction for a young team when you think you’ve built a little bit of a lead and you think it’s easy.”
2. Starting lineup: One of the great debates among fans all offseason centered around who would start for Dayton in the 2017-18 season. UD lost four senior starters. Davis, Cunningham, Xeyrius Williams and John Crosby seemed assured of jobs. No one could be sure who would grab the other spot.
Maybe it shouldn’t have been such a mystery, however. There was one other returning letter-winner, sophomore guard Trey Landers, and he joined the starting lineup for the first time.
3. Solid Svoboda: Of the five newcomers, no one had a better game than freshman forward Matej Svoboda. He’s 21 years old, much older than a typical freshman, and it showed.
Svoboda scored 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting in 19 minutes. He made 1 of 5 3-pointers.
“Matej can play,” Landers said. “I asked him before the game, ‘Are you nervous?’ He said, ‘I’m nervous.’ I told him just get in the game and do what you do. Then about 10 minutes into the game he hit a 3, and I said, ‘Are you still nervous?’ He said, ‘No I’m ready to play!’”
4. Exciting debut: Dayton had two Europeans in the game at the same time at some points: Svoboda, of the Czech Republic, and Antetokounpmo, of Greece.
Antetokounmpo scored six points on 3-of-7 shooting. He had four rebounds. He played 16 minutes and would have played more if hadn’t committed two fouls in the first half. His spin move and dunk for his first basket and his slam off an alley-oop pass from Landers were two of the best plays of the night.
“The thing we have to understand is he’s going to continue to grow and get better with more and more experience,” Grant said, “but you can see he has the potential to be really good. He has the potential to be a dominant force on the defensive end, and then with his length and skill set, the sky’s the limit in terms of what he can become.”
5. Making progress: This was Dayton’s second game against an outside opponent. The team didn’t release a result of its “secret scrimmage” against Northern Kentucky on Oct. 28, but Williams said the team performed much better in this game.
“We were way better defensively,” Williams said, “and we handled the pressure and adversity really well.”
Williams scored three points on 1-of-4 shooting but had 15 of the team’s 49 rebounds.
“My shots weren’t falling,” he said. “My goal was to affect the game by any means.”
Ball State at Dayton, 7 p.m., 95.7, 1290