Scoochie Smith didn’t want to lose in his hometown. Kendall Pollard helped make sure it didn’t happen.
Pollard led the Dayton Flyers with 25 points, one point off his career high, in a 75-66 victory Tuesday over Fordham at Rose Hill Gym. In one of the most intense and competitive Dayton-Fordham games in years, the Flyers ended the game on an 18-6 run to avoid a major upset and move back into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10.
“They’re a good team,” Pollard said of Fordham, which upset Virginia Commonwealth 69-67 in overtime on Jan. 18. “They’ve got some pretty good shooters, as you saw in the first half. In the second half, we stayed tight and closed out on the shooters.”
Fordham made 9 of 17 3-pointers in the first half but only 2 of 8 in the second half. Christian Sengfelder made 5 of 9 3-pointers and led the Rams (9-12, 3-5) with 21 points.
“Defensively, we were a step slow to the 3-point line, especially guarding their front court,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “I think their front court made seven 3s in the first half. When your front court can shoot like that, it really puts pressure on you.”
Dayton shot well itself: 23 of 44 from the field (52.3 percent) and 23 of 27 (85.2 percent) from the free-throw line.
“Fouls were a big deal,” Miller said. “We made 23 of 27. That’s one of the big reasons we won the game.”
Pollard made 8 of 11 shots from the field and did what he does best, getting to the line a lot. He had one of his best percentage nights at the line, making 9 of 13. He was feeling it in the second half. He had eight points in the last five minutes.
“They kept denying the guards when I tried to pass it,” Pollard said. “When it’s one-on-one, somebody’s in trouble.”
Pollard also hit the 1,000-point milestone in the second half, dunking off an assist from Kyle Davis. He now has 1,006 points. He’s the 47th player in UD history to reach that number and the second this season, following Smith.
“It was a milestone I wanted to before I got to college,” Pollard said. “In high school, they didn’t count our points.”
Dayton (16-5, 7-2) is tied with Richmond (13-8, 7-2) atop the A-10. VCU (16-5, 6-2) is a half game back. VCU and Richmond play at 7 p.m. Wednesday at VCU.
Dayton had to win this game as much for its NCAA tournament resume as for its A-10 hopes. It couldn’t afford to lose to a team ranked 209th in the RPI. Dayton ranks 29th.
“We couldn’t drop two in a row, especially in the league,” Pollard said.