Christmas Break. In college basketball, this is the time when road wins become slightly more attainable because the students have been sent home to detox from the copious amounts of crap food and all-nighters pulled during the run-up to finals week (at least if you're anything like me). Because of this, some of the home court advantage has been diminished, because it is just a tad bit difficult to attend games when your home is about 300 miles away from your school. When I last saw my Flyers, they had just eked out a victory in a "buy" game, and the remainder of the season looked bleak at best. But over break, wins over Mississippi, Saint Louis, and at Temple gave a bit of hope to the Flyer Faithful.
That is why I was especially excited to find out that I would end up back in Dayton on Saturday, instead of Sunday as I originally thought. After leaving later than planned and the GPS estimating our time of arrival at 8:15 Eastern time (the game was a 7:00 tip), I became discouraged. But with light traffic and a liberal interpretation of what the speed limit represented, we arrived at my campus house about an hour ahead of schedule. I unpacked my belongings from the car (I was getting a ride back to school with another kid from Chicago, I don't have my own car), threw them into my room, said three words to my roommate and flew out the front door.
After seeing what kind of toll lying around for a month with almost no physical activity took on my body in the form of a 1.5-mile run in twenty degree weather from my house to UD Arena, I arrived in my seat with about six minutes to go in the first half. Dayton was up 5 at that point, but within seconds, the Explorers closed it to a single point. It was a welcome sight to see Chris Johnson back in uniform and playing after sitting out the St. Bonaventure game with concussion-like symptoms. He, Kevin Dillard, and Luke Fabrizius hit #superhoops on back-to-back-to-back possessions while the Flyers came up with defensive stops in between, which allowed for Dayton to take a 40-29 lead into the break.
The game appeared to be on cruise control for the first three-quarters of the second half. The lead never seemed to dip below 10, but never managed to climb to a point where the game seemed out of reach. The fans just seemed to sit and watch, not really getting involved in the game very often, save for booing the referees, who seemed to call a foul on every possession either team had in the second half. But right after the under-4 timeout, things got interesting.
At the timeout, Dayton held a 10-point advantage. La Salle put on a full-court press, something the Flyers had not been proficient at solving most of this year. Tonight was no different. With Chris Johnson's symptoms recurring, which forced him to sit out the second half, Dayton was left with only three quality ballhandlers available, and it showed. La Salle applied a great deal of pressure, turning Dayton over multiple times. The high volume of fouls called in the second half, however, began to whittle down La Salle's personnel options, as Devon White and Earl Pettis were both sent to the bench with five fouls in the late stages. While that seemed like it would take the Explorers out of the game, it did not. Ramon Galloway drained a three with just over a minute remaining, and a DJ Peterson steal with half a minute remaining allowed La Salle to have a chance to tie the game on the last shot. However, Sam Mills was forced into a long, contested shot which missed, was rebounded by the Flyers, and Josh Parker hit 1 of 2 free throws to put the lead at 4 with 2.6 remaining. Game over.
So, Dayton unseats La Salle from the early A14 throne, leaving a three-way tie at the top between Dayton, UMass, and the enemy team from Cincinnati whose name doesn't need mentioning. Next Saturday looms large as that same enemy travels up I-75 to Dayton for the yearly showcase of Dayton's home schedule. But Dayton is near the top of the conference right now, something that hasn't happened in the two and a half years since I've been here. So both in basketball, and just in general that I've returned to Dayton from Christmas break, it's good to be back.
at DAYTON 79, LA SALLE 75 01/14/2012
LA SALLE 13-5 (2-1) -- S. Mills 5-12 4-4 17; R. Galloway 6-12 3-4 18; T. Duren 5-6 2-3 13; E. Pettis 6-10 6-8 19; S. Zack 0-1 2-5 2; D. Peterson 0-1 2-2 2; J. Wright 1-3 0-0 2; D. White 1-2 0-0 2; T. Dunn 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-48 19-26 75. DAYTON 13-5 (3-1) -- K. Dillard 4-12 0-0 9; J. Parker 3-8 1-2 9; L. Fabrizius 5-7 2-4 14; M. Kavanaugh 5-8 13-14 23; P. Williams 1-6 3-5 5; C. Johnson 2-3 0-0 5; D. Oliver 0-1 3-4 3; A. Gavrilovic 4-5 1-3 9; R. Hill 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 25-52 23-32 79.
Three-point goals: LAS 8-18 (E. Pettis 1-3; T. Dunn 0-1; R. Galloway 3-7; T. Duren 1-1; S. Mills 3-6), UD 6-17 (P. Williams 0-1; J. Parker 2-6; C. Johnson 1-2; L. Fabrizius 2-4; K. Dillard 1-3; R. Hill 0-1); Rebounds: LAS 23 (S. Zack 8), UD 33 (M. Kavanaugh 9); Assists: LAS 10 (T. Duren 3), UD 15 (K. Dillard 7); Total Fouls -- LAS 23, UD 21; Fouled Out: LAS-E. Pettis; UD-None.