In the fifth game of the season, there was urgency in the Dayton locker room at halftime. The first half ended with a 13-5 Akron run and a five-point deficit.
“Basically (the coaches) told us that we’ve just got to get in there and play basketball and come out there hard and play like it’s our last game,” freshman Kostas Antetokounmpo said.
»RELATED: Photos from Dayton’s win over Akron
The Flyers were a different team in the second half, holding the Zips to 36.4 percent shooting after a 50 percent first half.
“Our defense created offense for us in the second half,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said after the Flyers (3-2) rolled to a 73-60 victory over the Zips (2-1).
“It’s a lesson for our team at this stage — five games in — where we have to learn that, we have to grow that and we have to establish an identity of how we’re going to play,” Grant said. “And for me, I always tell them it starts at the defensive end. Tonight was a great lesson.”
Here are five takeways from the second home victory of the season.
1. 3-way star: Josh Cunningham dominated the lane on offense, was a rebounding machine and proved he guard on the perimeter.
The junior captain played 37 minutes and scored 20 points, including 11 straight that took the Flyers’ lead from 60-50 to 71-54. He grabbed 16 rebounds, which is only his second highest total of the year (19 against Ohio). And in the second half he held Akron’s leading scorer, Daniel Utomi, to eight points following an 11-point first half. Utomi came in averaging 26 points and 12 3-pointers in two games.
“I can’t say enough about what his leadership and his toughness means to our team,” Grant said.
2. Jordan Davis can shoot: The freshman from South Carolina made his first start and made four of seven 3-pointers and scored 14 points. He is now 8 of 14 from behind the arc.
While the defense was finding the identity of that consistent effort Grant wants, Davis made all of his 3-pointers in the first 11 minutes of the second half.
“Jordan Davis is a really good player, and he’s finding his way on both sides of the ball in terms of what he’s capable of,” Grant said. “I think he’s got a chance to be an outstanding defender. Obviously, offensively he’s got a gift to be able to score the basketball. He’s just scratching the surface of how good he can be.”
3. Can’t keep him down: Darrell Davis entered the game averaging 22 points, but he was scoreless in the first half. No worries for the Flyers that he had lost his touch. Davis was just as important to the opening second-half run as the defense and Jordan Davis were. He made two 3-pointers and a 15-footer to key a 13-0 run to start the half and finished with 12 points.
“It changed the game when Jordan Davis and Darrell started making threes,” Antetokounmpo said. “It gave us energy, it changed the game and we just flipped it over.”
Darrell Davis took only three shots in the first half and was rarely in the flow of the offense.
“It was good to see him in the second half to come out with some aggressiveness,” Grant said. “We tried to get him going a little bit and he was able to see a couple shots go in and got into a nice rhythm.”
4. Lots to choose from: Because of injuries Grant now has seven players in his nine-player rotation he can trust in starting roles. Cunningham, Darrell Davis and Crosby have started all five games. Trey Landers started the first three games but has been out since suffering an ankle injury against Ohio. Xeyrius Williams missed his first start against Akron because of back spasms, which Grant said is a bit of a lingering problem. Grant said the status of both players is day to day.
Antetokounmpo has filled in for Landers the past two games. After a two-point effort in 15 minutes against Old Dominion, he had 12 points, two blocked shots and two steals against Akron. Jordan Davis filled in for Williams.
Grant wouldn’t say what his plans are going forward.
5. Thin but productive bench: Grant knew the only players he could turn to for key bench minutes were freshmen Jalen Crutcher and Matej Svoboda. Crutcher played his usual 24 minutes and had eight assists, no turnovers and three steals. Svoboda played 25 minutes, more than twice his average, and had nine points and four rebounds.
“I felt like if we played the way we’re capable of playing, we could win the game with what we have,” Grant said. “If we have enough guys to suit up and start the game, I feel like we have a chance to win.”