By HAL McCOY
OLEAN, N.Y. — Former major league catcher/broadcaster/humorist Joe Garagiola wrote a book, “Baseball Is a Funny Game.”
Baseball isn’t any funnier than college basketball and the University of Dayton Flyers proved that Tuesday night.
Only the St. Bonaventure Bonnies failed to see the humor in UD’s 90-74 stunner.
JUST FIVE DAYS AGO, the Flyers couldn’t throw the ball into a creek from a canoe from the three-point line and the foul line against La Salle.
Only because La Salle is not very good were the Flyers able to post an 11-point victory despite 3 of 22 from three-point range and 15 of 31 from the foul line.
AND THAT WAS IN the comfy, cozy environs of UD Arena. On Tuesday, they were at St. Bonaventure, where it is normally as difficult to walk away with a victory as it is to walk out of a bank without being recorded on a video camera.
Based on the fact the Flyers resembled The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight at home against La Salle, the trip to the western New York hinterlands seemed like a lost voyage.
Mix in the fact that leading scorer Charles Cooke sat on the bench in street clothes with a sore back, the task seemed insurmountable.
THE FLYERS HIT ST. BONAVENTURE with the fury of a cyclone, filling the baskets with ‘threes’ and free throws at a monotonous rate.
Stir in some stirring defense and the Flyers vacated the premises with a 16-point win.
How? More like wow.
—They made 14 of 23 three-point attempts. Both Kyle Davis and Kendall Pollard were 3 of 3 from three.
—They made 18 of 25 from the foul line.
—They spread the basketball around as if it was a large hot coal for 18 assists.
—They fell behind in the first half by seven, but didn’t know the definition of panic. They just rained in threes.
—They had five players in double figures, led by Kendall Pollard’s 21, despite the fact he picked up his third foul one minute into the second half and his fourth foul with 11 minutes left.
—Kyle Davis, all 6-foot-0 of him, scored 16 points, had seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. And as broadcaster Bucky Bockhorn said after the game, “And he sold five hot dogs at halftime.”
—Ryan Mikesell, also playing in a strait jacket full of fouls, scored 16, mostly on aggressive drives to the basket to complement all the threes his teammates buried.
—Xeyrius Williams came off the bench to score 15 as the lanky sophomore continues to put gloss on his offensive game.
—Scoochie Smith scored 17 after a two-point first half and ran the offense like General Patton. And his successive threes late in the game put St. Bonaventure out of its misery.
THE FLYERS LED BY SIX with eight minutes left when Smith hit back-to-back threes to put the Flyers up, 72-58. At that point, the Flyers were 15 of 19 shooting in the second half.
Threes turned the game around in the first half, too. UD was down by seven, 23-16, when Kyle Davis hit back-to-back threes and Ryan Mikesell hit a three to put the Flyers on top, 30-28, a lead they increased to 38-31 by halftime — a lead they never relinquished.
St. Bonaventure’s two high-scoring guards, both averaging more than 20, combined for 41, but they had to work excruciatingly hard for most of them.
Jaylen Adams, averaging 23, scored 24 and Matt Mobley, averaging 20, scored 17. But neither hurt the Flyers when the game was on the line. Adams was 7 for 17 overall and 3 for 9 from three while Mobley was 5 for 13 and 4 for 9 from three.
A MAJOR OBJECTIVE FOR the Flyers was to throw spikes on the floor to stop St. Bona’s transition game and the Bonnies scored only 10 off fast breaks.
“I felt particularly good about our defensive effort, particularly in the first half,” said coach Archie Miller after his Flyers stretched their record to 11-and-3, 2-and-0 in the Atlantic 10. “Our offense really opened up in the second half. The guys were really comfortable playing with one another, sharing the ball.
“I wasn’t as pleased with our defense in the second half, but it is really hard to contain those two guys for 40 minutes, especially Jaylen Adams,” he added.
“On the road, it is just fun to win by one point, so we’ll take this,” he said. “This is a really tough-minded group right now that is really competing.”
MILLER HAD PARTICULAR PRAISE for Ryan Mikesell, easily the most aggressive player on the floor on this night.
“Ryan Mikesell was fantastic at creating offense,” said Miller. “We were able to go through him a lot. Ryan was a real difference-maker for us in the second half offensively by getting us some unique baskets we weren’t getting in the first half at the two-point range.”
The Flyers return to the scene of the crime Friday night against Rhode Island, at home at UD Arena where they were unable to hit threes or free throws against La Salle.