Spencer Thomas | Staff Writer
Jan. 20, 2022
In Saturday afternoon’s nationally televised contest at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse, Dayton defeated Duquesne 72-52.
The victory was the Flyers’ largest in the all-time series since Jan. 3, 2015, when they bested the Dukes by an 81-55 tally.
It was clear Duquesne had their work cut out for them even before tipoff, as junior forward Austin Rotroff was deemed unavailable due to injury. Without their 6-foot-10, go-to big man, the Dukes were forced to field a starting five without anyone over 6-foot-7.
That led to repeated mismatches in the paint, where 6-foot-10 freshman DaRon Holmes II dominated for the Flyers. The four-star recruit scored a game-high 18 points, complemented by five rebounds, a block and an assist.
His Flyers outscored the Dukes 38-26 in the paint, which included several thunderous dunks that repeatedly brought the Dayton fans in attendance to their feet.
The biggest disparity in height was evident in the rebound category. The Flyers outrebounded the Dukes 35-24, including a 9-5 edge on the offensive glass. Dayton scored eight second-chance points in the first half (10 total), while the Dukes managed just two all game.
Defensively, Dayton’s size locked off the paint for Duquesne and forced them to attempt more shots from long range. The Dukes finished the day going just 5-for-19 from 3-point-land (1-for-8 in the second half).
The Flyers consistently hit their outside shots at the outset, knocking down five of their first eight 3-point attempts. Although Duquesne grabbed an early 7-4 lead, the outside shot was a key factor in helping Dayton take a 40-28 lead into halftime.
Dayton was also incredibly active off the ball, forcing Duquesne defenders to tire themselves in pursuit of their man. Dayton’s offense racked up a total of 19 assists, while Duquesne only recorded eight assists.
“I thought that was the key to the game,” Duquesne Head Coach Keith Dambrot said. “They moved us so much in the first half that we tired in the second half. We didn’t have [expletive] in the second half.”
With a chance to make a comeback at the start of the second half, the Dukes managed to score just 11 points in the first 12 minutes of the half. This allowed Dayton to extend its lead to 25 points (64-39).
“We’re just too one-on-one oriented right now, which is hit or miss,” Dambrot said.
Dambrot also discussed how critical he thought ball movement would be for his team going forward.
“I’ve got to ‘revolving door’ it,” Dambrot said. “If you don’t move the ball and you take bad shots, you’re coming out.”
That philosophy was put into practice early in the second half, when freshman Jackie Johnson III attempted to drive to the basket but was swallowed up by a flock of Flyers. He was immediately pulled from the court, advised by his coaches and went back into the game.
It was an uncharacteristically quiet day for Johnson. He had just two points on 1-of-5 shooting, along with a pair of turnovers.
“We have good individual pieces, but we haven’t shown we can consistently play together,” Dambrot said. “… I’m just going to have to clobber it over their heads.”
A season-high 3,012 spectators escaped the bitter cold and entered the fieldhouse for the game, but it was Dayton’s strong traveling section that was making a majority of the noise.
Following the defeat, which tied a Dec. 7 loss against DePaul for largest margin of defeat this season (87-67), the Dukes have lost back-to-back Atlantic 10 Conference games. They’ll return to action on Friday night, when they host St. Bonaventure in a game that will be televised nationally by ESPN2.
The Bonnies were ranked as high as No. 16 in the nation during the first month of the season, but have lost three of their last five games (dating back to Dec. 11), including an 18-point road loss at the hands of Dayton on Tuesday night.
The Dukes have lost three-consecutive games against the Bonnies and 11 of the last 12 meetings overall (dating back to Feb. 24, 2016). The lone victory came on Feb. 26, 2020, an 81-77 road win in overtime.
The Dukes have not won a home game over St. Bonaventure since Jan. 16, 2016, when they bested the Bonnies by a 95-88 mark.