By HAL McCOY
The school is known as the University of Dayton. The basketball team should be known as the Adversity of Dayton.
The basketball team has had more obstacles erected in front of it than a steeplechase horse. And the Flyers keep flying over them with class and style.
No complaints — no whoa is us, no why us, no toss us a towel so we can throw it in.
Adversity? It is their adopted name, the Adversity of Dayton.
The Flyers just go about their business as if it is business as usual. And so what if obstacles keep jumping up in the middle of the road and screaming, “Boo.”
The latest adventure was a three-game appearance over the weekend in the Wooden Legacy tournament in Orange County, California.
In the first round against the University of Nebraska, the Flyers started the game in neutral and fell behind by 20 points in the first half. They downshifted in the second half and had a chance to win in the dying seconds before an ill-advised shot did them in and they lost by four.
Rather than spend the rest of the weekend Mickey Mousing around in the shadows of Disneyland, the Flyers played serious basketball to beat Portland and then finish the trip Sunday with a 62-57 victory over a strong and highly regarded Univiersity of New Mexico.
Adversity? It is well-documented about what has happened to the Flyers so far this season.
—Starting center Steve McElvene, diagnosed with an enlareged heart, collapsed an died last May.
—Senior Kendall Pollard, expected to provide dominance on the backboards, has dominated a seat on the bench so far this season with a pesky hip injury and hasn’t played.
—Freshman Josh Cunningham, expected to provide what Pollard hasn’t been able to provide, wrecked his ankle and knee in the final seconds of a victory at Alabama early this season and may miss the rest of the season.
But the Flyers don’t just plod along, they play along and are doing it with style and grace.
And adversity reared its scary mug during Sunday’s victory over New Mexico.
Uncharesteristically for this season, the Flyers started fast and built a 13-point lead midway through the first half.
During the TV broadcast, ESPN’s Steve Quis said, “Does anybody think Dayton receives the love they deserve nationally?”
No, they don’t. Never do. Not until tournament time and national observers are shocked and surprised by UD’s success.
“I know one thing,” said Quis. “Dayton is not a team I’d want to face early in the NCAA tournament.”
Then, with the Flyers leading, 21-11, with eight minutes left in the half, UD’s leading scorer, Charles Cooke (averaging 21 game), crumpled to the floor.
They were playing at the Honda Center in Anaheim, home of the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks (once the Mighty Ducks but no longer mighty). The floor is laid over the ice.
Their was moisture on the floor and as Cooke made a move, he did the split and landed hard on the floor. He limped off and headed for the locker room.
New Mexico took advantage. With an 11-4 run they cut the lead to 31-25 by halftime. Cooke didn’t start the second half. He was behind the bench pedaling hard on a stationary bicycle, as if preparing for the Tour de Anaheim.
And New Mexico kept coming. The Lobos drew within 34-32 with 17 1/2 minutes remaining. And that’s when Cooke returned. He didn’t ride in on a magic carpet, or a bicycle, didn’t fill the basket with points or snag a dozen rebounds.
It was his mere presence, his steadying influence, his leadership as a senior that helped the Flyers hold on.
New Mexico didn’t own a lead until only a minute remained. Lobo star Tim Williams scored underneath to give the Lobos its first — and only — lead of the game at 57-56.
The Lobos would not score again. Cooke, playing with an Amos McCoy limp, drove the lane and was fouled at 0:46.5. He made both free throws to push the Flyers back on top, 58-57.
New Mexico (4-2) committed another of its 16 turnovers, this one forced by sophomore Ryan Mikesell and Kyle Davis flew down the floor for a fast break basket at 0:32.7 for a 60-57 UD lead.
Kyle Davis forced another turnover and Mikesell was fouled at 0:16.6. He made both. And to put the lid on it, Kyle Davi stole the ball and finished the game with a flush dunk to make it 64-57 — an 8-0 UD bustout in the final minute after they had fallen behind by one point.
The Flyers scored 23 points off New Mexico turnovers. And the three seniors each provided a dozen points — Cooke, Kyle Davis and Scoochie Smith, as the Flyers pushed their record to 4-2.
“I’m proud of our guys,” said UD coach Archie Miller. “To come out of this (tournament) 2-and-1, with a hard-fought win against a good team in New Mexico.
‘I thought we got better each game, and more importantly, the guys did a real good job of playing hard. When you lose a big lead and get back to get a win you are really proud of your team.
“And those two guys (Charles Cooke and Scoochie Smith) were able to come in, hit some shots, and we’re right back in it,” Miller added.
Not only were they back in it, they won it — another success story for ther Adversity of Dayton Flyers.