It wasn’t pretty, and it smelled even worse. But somehow the Flyers cleared their sinuses in the nick of time Tuesday to beat Duquesne and win their 20th straight at home.
DAYTON — The stench from the elephants, camels and lions, leftovers from the Shrine Circus that appeared at UD Arena last week, wafted from underneath the stands and permeated Blackburn Court Tuesday night.
And for most of the basketball game, it was apropos because for nearly 34 minutes the University of Dayton Flyers stunk up the place more than the circus animal acts.
But as Shakespeare tells us, ‘All’s Well That Ends Well,’ and it ended well for the Flyers against a belligerent bunch representing Duquesne University.
With six minutes left in the game, the Flyers were flat on their posteriors, dead to the world, sleeping in heavenly peace.
They trailed Duquesne by 12 points and as they kept missing free throws the 13,141 in UD Arena sensed another collapse that would knock the Flyers back out of the Top 25.
As it turned out, them 17th-ranked Flyers were merely wounded wildebeests and they got up off the floor and got back in the race.
Using jaw-to-jaw and nose-to-nose defense, the Flyers held Duquesne without a basket over the last 5:50 and UD prevailed, 76-74.
They scrambled back from a 69-57 deficit with 5:50 left to tie it, 70-70, when guard Scoochie Smith buried a three-pointer with 47 seconds left and the Flyers held on despite missing three of four free throws in the last seven seconds.
So the Flyers survived, winning their 20th game this season against three defeats and pushing their Atlantic 10 record to 10-1, tied for first with Virginia Commonwealth.
Duquesne? The Dukes are 15-9 overall and 5-6 in the Atlantic 10, a mediocre guard-oriented team that gave the Flyers a howling scare before UD won its eighth straight game and 20th straight Atlantic 10 game at home.
Duquesne guards Micah Mason and Derrick Colter were as advertised as they combined for 48 points, 27 by Mason and 21 by Colter. Mason, who did not play when Dayton beat Duquesne in Pittsburgh, 66-58 in early January, was seven of eight on three-pointers.
“It is very rare that you win a game when a guy (on the other team) scores 27,” said UD coach Archie Miller. “We knew if Mason and Colter got 40 we’d have a hard time. And they ended up getting 48 between them.”
Mason’ three-pointer at 5:50 gave the Dukes that 69-57 lead, but it was to be his last basket and Duquesne’s last basket. Colter missed his last five shots.
“We were able to take the ball out of their hands toward the end of the game (Mason and Colter) rather than let those guys make the plays,” said Miller
The Flyers nearly gave it away at the foul line. After going six for eight in the first half, the Flyers were 9 for 20 in the second half and Smith was 0 for 3 down the stretch.
He made up for that with his game-breaking three-pointer with 47 seconds left, his only trey of the game after missing his first two.
So it took courage and bravado for him to even attempt the three-pointer when it was 70-70. But the shot was on target like an Atlas missile.
“It’s a shot I always make, I think,” said Smith. “It was wide open and Dyshawn Pierre gave me a good pass. I just kept my confidence up, the shot was wide open and it was a shot I practiced all day.
“The free throw line? Yeah, that’s been a thing all season for me and it’s a little mental right now,” he said after going 3 for 9 at the line. “I made 80 per cent last year and in practice I make a lot of free throws.”
So far this season practice hasn’t made perfect from the foul line but it has made a different from the three-point line.
When the Flyers were down 12 with six minutes left, it looked mighty bleak for the Home Five, except for the white-clad Flyers in their timeout huddle.
“We stayed together, stayed true to one another and we knew we all had each other’s backs and we just dug in the last six minutes of the game,” said Smith.
During the frantic comeback, guard Kyle Davis scored seven points in a two-minute span to get the Flyers within reach.
Davis said nothing much was said in the huddle before the final blitz and said, “We just looked at each other and we know what we have to do — just win the game. We made sure we had everything strapped on to get ready to win.”
Both Davis and Miller credited a raucous crowd with giving the Flyers the extra oomph to push them over the top.
“It was the amazing crowd and us huddling up to tell each other, ‘We have to finish this game,’” said Davis.
“We don’t win this game without that crowd,” said Miller. “The last six minutes was about as loud as I’ve heard it in here.”
After Smith made his three-pointer for the 73-70 lead, the crowd was at Defcon 2 as Duquesne called timeout. On the inbounds play the crowd pushed it to Defcon 1 and Micah Miller threw the ball away.
“When he was trying to throw the ball inbounds you couldn’t hear and he threw it out of bounds. That’s the special part of being here, coaching here and playing here — you have that edge at your fingertips. I wish we could play a little better early in the games at home to make things a little more fun for them. But we don’t win that game without that crowd.”
And the crowd says, “You’re welcome, Arch, just keep those victories coming, even if the place on this night smelled like Animal House.
(Edited By Julie McMaken Wright)