By HAL McCOY
One of the favorite quotes uttered all season by University of Dayton senior forward Kendall Pollard is, “Whatever it takes.”
And once again the Flyers put that quote to good use during a rugged night at the University of Rhode Island.
What it took Friday night was a lot of intensity, a lot of never-give-up, a lot of help from the bench and a tense, gutty three-point shot by sophomore bench player Xeyrius Williams to beat Rhode Island, 75-74.
With the Flyers down by two points and the clock nosing quickly toward 0:00, Williams calmly took aim from the left side after taking a pass from Scoochie Smith and buried the game-winning three-pointer.
It was deja vu for Rhode Island — same situation, different player. A year ago in Kingston, R.I., the Flyers also won the game on a last ditch three-pointer, that time by Darrell Davis.
But it wasn’t over this time when Williams hit his three. There were still 0:07.7.2 seconds left. The Rams moved the ball downcourt and Jared Terrell barged toward the basket. Pollard blocked his way and the ball squirted out of bounds.
It appeared to bounce off Tererell’s chest, but the officials ruled it belonged to Rhode Island and gave them an out-of-bounds play with 0:01.4 seconds left.
When the Rams tried to inbounds the pass it flew awry to half-court as time expired and the Flyers earned a big, big, big Atlantic 10 victory.
If the Flyers had lost, they would have fallen into a tie with Rhode Island at 9-and-3. Instead, Rhode Island toppled to 8-and-4 and the first-place Flyers climbed to 10-and-2. And it gave the Flyers a noteworthy road victory to enhance their RPI work sheet.
Williams, a 6-foot-8 graduate of Wayne High School in Huber Heights, a long jump shot from the UD campus, came off the bench to score 13 points on five of seven shooting, 2 of 4 from the three-point line.
And it was a bench victory for the Flyers. Their non-srarters outscored Rhode Island’s bench brigage 24-3.
As happens so often this season, the Flyers played the first half in a daze and a haze and fell behind by as many as 11 points. They were down 29-18 with four minutes left in the half because they had made only 5 of 25 shots — 2 for 14 before Ryan Mikesell hit a three after the Flyers made a couple of free throws, cutting it to 29-23.
Despite shooting only 27.6 per cent, their second worst first half of the season, the Flyers trailed by only 36-30 —mainly because of hustle and heart on defense. They forced eight first-half turnovers.
The Flyers came out with smoke coming out of their nostrils to start the second half and grabbed their first lead of the game at 37-36 on two Kendall Pollard free throws.
From there it was back-and-forth, forth-and-back and before the game ended it was tied nine times and the lead changed from team-to-team 11 times.
Dayton’s biggest lead of the second half was three points with 8:22 left. And they were down, 73-69 with 25 seconds left.
But Williams hit a three with 0:18.6 seconds left to draw the Flyers within one. Rhode Island’s E.C. Matthews made one of two free throws at 0:24.4 to give the Rams a 74-72 lead.
Then Williams struck again with his dagger.
It was a night the Flyers had to do it when their leader, point guard Scoochie Smith, was not at his best. He was saddled with fouls and made only 3 of 10 shots en route to seven points. But he had a couple of other big sevens — seven assists and seven rebounds.
Charles Cooke continues to struggle with his shooting, hitting 4 of 11 on his way to 13 points. But old reliable, Kendall Pollard banged in 17, eight coming from the free throw line on 10 attempts.
After missing 21 games with a torn ligament, Josh Cunningham returned to action, albeit very limited. He played exactly two minutes and drew three fouls. The rest of the line on his score sheet was a string of zeros.
But, as Pollard likes to say, “Whatever it takes.” And the Flyers definitely took this one the hard way.