- David Jablonski Staff Writer
Xeyrius Williams missed his fourth straight game Wednesday for the Dayton Flyers and is making progress toward returning from a back injury, but it’s unknown when he might be available.
“I’m slowly moving back into the swing of things,” Williams said Thursday in a live interview with the Flyer Nation Facebook page.
The Flyers (4-4) improved to 2-2 without Williams with a 79-66 victory against Tennessee Tech at UD Arena. Williams averaged 8.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in first four games. He said he has been fighting back spasms throughout his basketball career.
“I’ve played through it for about six years,” Williams said. “It hasn’t got serious until this year. I’ve never had to sit out, so it’s new for me. I’m really just taking a different seat and a different role.”
Dayton coach Anthony Grant said Williams did some non-contact drills Tuesday and worked out Wednesday. The coaches and trainers want to see how he reacts to those workouts.
“We’re always going to look out for the best interest of our guys,” Grant said. “We’re never going to put he or anybody else in a situation where their health could be in danger. When he’s ready, he’ll be ready. Until then, we’ll be patient.”
Career high: Grant took sophomore guard Trey Landers out of the game after a turnover with 15:48 left in the second half Wednesday against Tennessee Tech.
“I was bothered by the turnover,” Grant said. “I thought it was an unforced turnover. We just needed to take care of the basketball a little better.”
Landers returned with 5:49 to play after the Golden Eagles had trimmed Dayton’s lead to 63-56. A 3-point play by Landers pushed the lead back to 10 points, and he scored four more points in the final minutes. Grant praised the energy Landers brought to the defense when he returned and his aggressive play on offense.
Landers scored a career-high 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
“He showed great maturity with the way he approached the close of the game,” Grant said, “and he was able to do a great job helping us close.”
Next game: Dayton hosts Penn (7-4) at 3 p.m. Saturday. The Quakers beat Lafayette 73-68 on Wednesday. They have won four of their last five games after starting 3-3.
Dayton and Penn played once before with the Flyers winning 71-60 in 1997 in the San Juan Shootout. Entering the season, Penn ranked 20th in NCAA history in victories (1,747) and 37th in winning percentage (.615).