On this date: Dayton earned key resume win at VCU six year ago

David Jablonski, Dayton Daily News, Ohio
·4 min read

Feb. 28—Six years ago on this date, Archie Miller yelled, "Hell yeah, baby!" as he entered the Dayton Flyers locker room after a 59-55 victory over Virginia Commonwealth at the Siegel Center.

Dayton was still on the bubble when Feb. 28, 2015, began, but it had one foot solidly in the door of the NCAA tournament picture after beating VCU — or at least everyone thought at the time. Dayton ended up in the First Four that season despite a 28-5 record and a run to the Atlantic 10 Conference championship game, where VCU avenged its regular-season defeat.

The victory at VCU was an improbable one because of Dayton's depth issue. A seven-man team battled foul trouble that day, and it looked for a team as if walk-on Joey Gruden might see time. But Dayton survived for one of its signature A-10 victories in Miller's six seasons as coach. Here's a look back at my game story from that day.

Flyers Ram tough

Dayton outlasts VCU; to face Rhode Island for first in A-10

RICHMOND, VA. — Jordan Sibert left the Siegel Center with a bag of ice wrapped around his wrist. Two bags of ice clung to Kendall Pollard's knees. Darrell Davis walked away with only one iced knee.

Held together by the training staff and coaches and sometimes seemingly by magic — not to mention duct tape, string and whatever else keeps a team like this afloat 28 games into the season — the Dayton Flyers somehow found a way Saturday to play their best basketball at the perfect time. They lack numbers and height, but make up the deficit with a league-leading amount of heart.

How else could you explain a 59-55 victory over No. 22 Virginia Commonwealth?

"It's the right time to play this type of basketball," sophomore point guard Scoochie Smith said. "We played hard. March starts tomorrow."

Indeed, March arrived today, and the madness will follow. Smith experienced more than his share of it Saturday.

In the house of Havoc, he played 39 minutes and faced the Rams' pressure defense with no fear. With the Flyers clinging to the lead in the final minutes, Smith looked much like Sisyphus, carrying the rock up the court with the world on his shoulders.

Dayton finished with eight turnovers. Not since Michigan committed seven against the Rams in the 2013 NCAA tournament had an opponent done so well against VCU's famed defense.

"It was really good pressure," Smith said, "but we came prepared. The other four teammates who were on the floor helped me out. When (VCU) trapped, they came to the ball."

Despite UD's success against the trap, this game came down to the final seconds. The Flyers led 57-55 when VCU's leading scorer, Treveon Graham, shot a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left over the outstretched arm of Dyshawn Pierre. In VCU's game on Wednesday against Richmond, Graham made a 3-pointer in the final seconds to force overtime.

This time, Graham missed, but Mo-Alie Cox got the rebound. Surrounded by Smith, Bobby Wehrli and Kyle Davis, he tried a bank shot but just missed. Sibert grabbed the rebound with two seconds left and then hit two free throws to clinch the victory.

Dayton (22-6, 12-4) might have punched its ticket to the NCAA tournament with its most important victory and by far its biggest road win. It also moved closer to winning the Atlantic 10 regular-season title. A first-place showdown with Rhode Island looms Tuesday.

The Rams (21-8, 11-5), the preseason pick to win the conference, fell to second place.

"It's been a long year for us, fighting through a lot of adversity," Sibert said. "Credit to VCU. They did a great job messing up our offense and making it hard for us, but we just kept fighting. It feels pretty good right now."

Sibert led the Flyers with 19 points. Pollard had 16 points despite fouling out with 4:57 to play. With Wehrli and Kyle Davis also playing with four fouls in the final minutes, the Flyers had a narrow margin for error but still found a way.

"The last five minutes were about survival," coach Archie Miller said.