The Dayton Flyers beat the Rhode Island Rams 56-52 in the Atlantic 10 Championship Semifinals on Saturday afternoon at Barclays Center. They will face VCU in the final on Sunday afternoon.
Dayton: Jordan Sibert – 12 points on 5-for-10 from the field, 0-4 on threes, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds. Dyshawn Pierre – 10 points on 4-for-14 from the field, 0-2 on threes, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists. Kendall Pollard and Scoochie Smith had 9 points each, and Kyle Davis and Bobby Wehrli each had 8 points.
Rhode Island: E.C. Matthews – 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting, 4-9 on threes, 4 rebounds, and an assist. Gilvydas Biruta – 14 points on 3-for-4 from the field, 8-8 on free throws, 9 rebounds, and a block.
Turning point: Rhode Island tied the game at 47 on a three by E.C. Matthews at the 3:28 mark of the second half. Dayton responded with a layup from Jordan Sibert, a couple of free throws from Kyle Davis, and another layup from Sibert with 1:09 left to make it a 6-0 run and make it 53-47. A three from Jared Terrell with 22 seconds left brought Rhode Island back to within two, at 54-52, but Davis sealed the win with a couple of free throws with 18 seconds remaining.
Dayton Flyers Head Coach Archie Miller: “Well, that was a really hardfought game, anybody who watched it probably didn’t enjoy it as much as the players and the coaches in the game, because it wasn’t the prettiest of things. But I thought two teams who really competed; I thought Rhode Island really, really battled hard. They were ready, in particular on defense. That was the defensive team we expected at our place. It was just a little different playing in our arena. But our kids battled, too. We had a lot of guys step up and make a lot of different plays.
“The difference in the game really was probably the turnover margin and our ability to maybe convert some of them at big times. Every basket was hardearned, and we are very fortunate to win. But at this time of the year, it doesn’t really matter how you get it. You’ve just got to get it.”
COACH MILLER on managing a game in which both teams shot poorly and what he told his team: “I mean, offense isn’t going to be there at times in the postseason. I thought today’s game was going to be one where the players won the game because there just wasn’t any easy baskets. There wasn’t anything easy around the paint on both ends. There were some bunnies that were missed on both ends.
“We just stayed with what we do. Part of it is we know we have won games a lot of different ways this season. Some of them we shot really well and offense just clicked. Some of it’s just been we have grinded it out and found a way to just be there at the end and make a few winning plays, like tonight or last night, or a few games back when we had a big road win at VCU.
“You have to win different ways and I think we are built to win different ways because of our versatility. But I’m happy just in general, defensively we were able to play 40 minutes the way we want to play, hard, and our defense was able to give us a chance. Part of their turnovers probably had a little bit to do with our defense. But we didn’t do everything perfect. I mean, right now, we have really lost our threepoint defense, in particular, the two games here in Brooklyn we have really got dialed up. VCU is shooting the ball really well right now. So we have got some things to work on and think about.”
Q. Second half, did you change anything defensively to ramp things up?
COACH MILLER: “Pressure was up a little bit. We just felt like they were moving the ball way too easy. Where they caught the ball was way too easy. Our ball screen coverages had to be mixed up in the game. You know, I thought we flew around. That’s what we have to do.
“I mean, if you look at the games we have been successful, when they are dogfights or they are really good teams, part of it is you just look at the steal column. Last night was ten steals. Tonight was 11 steals. Some of our biggest wins, our activity off the ball, deflecting balls, two-on-ones, three-on-twos; that’s how we have to play being at our size. That probably saved us as much as anything was the points off the turnovers.”
Q. Dyshawn (Pierre) struggled for a large part of the game, but all of the sudden he was possessed there in the second half. Did you say anything to get his spirits up?
COACH MILLER: For the first time in a long time, I think you saw the scowl on his face that you’re normally accustomed to seeing when he really wants to put his head down or he really wants to make something happen. Our last game and a half, in particular, our last game and a half, he sort of let the action kind of take him out of the game. The game is physical right now. They are not letting him do what he wants to do and he’s missing some short shots.
“But I thought at about the nineminute mark, when things really started to get physical, he really raised up. He had a couple great moves, he had a couple great finishes. And the fact that he finished with 109, that’s a heck of an effort for him because he was really battling through it. He is who he is. He’s one of those guys that can really get going in a big way and we need him to.”
Rhode Island Head Coach Dan Hurley: “Tough loss obviously. Obviously lost a little bit with inexperience, 21 turnovers, giving away that many possessions obviously hurt. And you’ve got to give them credit. Obviously for us, knowing with their limited roster, scholarship players, playing seven guys, our game plan was obviously to try to attack the paint as much as possible. I think we have 55 paint touches in the game.
“You know, they showed tremendous I guess they showed tremendous discipline. We commit 11 fouls and so they did a great job defensively of not fouling us with that limited roster.
“It was a tough loss. We obviously had chances. Up in the second half, under eight minutes. It was a tough loss but obviously thrilled with the season we’ve had to this point. Felt like we were right there.”