By HAL McCOY
The University of Dayton basketball team played a magnificent first half Tuesday night in Maraga, Calif., against St. Mary’s College.
Unfortunately for the Flyers, even on the west coast they play two halves and the second half was 20 minutes of misery that led to a 69-54 defeat.
The Flyers played sticky and aggressive defense in the first half and led, 31-29, but the Gaels made some offensive adjustments at halftime and UD’s offense took an early second half snooze session.
St. Mary’s, playing in the tiny 3,500-seat McKeon Pavilion, turned up the defensive pressure and outscored the Flyers 40-23 in the final 20 minutes.
That’s a stunning defensive turnaround for St. Mary’s, ranked 311th in the nation in scoring defense.
The Flyers opened the second half by going 1 for 8 and were outscored 12-2 in the first seven minutes to fall behind, 41-33.
They briefly righted the listing rowboat for climb back to within three, 49-46, with seven minutes left, but then the Gaels pulled the plug and the boat sank.
The 10-2 Gaels went on a 14-0 sprintout to assume a 63-46 lead with three minutes left and UD was on its way to a 5-and-6 record.
The Flyers took that 31-29 lead despite the fact that leading scoring Darrell Davis didn’t score and No. 2 scorer Josh Cunningham had three.
The Flyers did it by shutting down 6-10 center Jock Landale. He averages 22 points a game but had only two in the first half and sat seven minutes with two fouls.
And the Gaels’ leading three-point shooter, Cal Hermanson, had zero. The St. Mary’s slack was taken up by guard Jordan Ford. He averages 8.8 points a game, but he had 13 in the first half.
The Gaels, though, started the second half with a series of lob passes to Landale and the big Aussie dropped in 12 second-half points. And Hermanson fund the range, dropping in four three-pointers in the second half en route to 17 points.
Darrell Davis finished the game with zero points (for 11) and the Flyers were led by Xeyrius Williams with 16, playing his first significant minutes since missing five games with back problems.
Cunningham had nine points and eight rebounds, but took only seven shots, and Jordan Davis scored 11.
The Flyers hit only 35 per cent of their attempts (21-60) and was 9 for 29 in the second half, making only three of 10 three-pointers in the second half.
St. Mary’s, 7-and-0 at home and a co-favorite with Gonzaga in the West Coast Collegiate Conference, shot 51 per cent (25-49) and outrebounded the Flyers 41-24. Landale had 11 rebounds to go with his 14 points, his fourth straight double-double.