By HAL McCOY
RICHMOND, Va. – The well-trodden University of Richmond Spiders were the perfect foil Tuesday night for the victory-hungry University of Dayton basketball team.
Richmond was 3-and-12 when they tossed up the basketball to begin things at Robins Center, a solid opportunity for the Flyers to level their record at 8-and-8.
And they did accomplish that goal with an 87-81 victory, but there were palpitating moments, even though the Flyers led by 17 in the first half and 15 early in the second half.
But Richmond ripped into that 15-point lead and drew within two, 61-59, with 10:40 remaining.
The Flyers, led by Trey Landers, didn’t turn to scattered crumbs, though, and held off several late Richmond runs.
-After leading by only 61-59, scored straight to take a 67-59 lead as Landers took a charge and scored on a putback underneath.
-Richmond trimmed it to 72-67, with five minutes left. But the Flyers, 14 for 15 from the foul line, hit six straight free throws, two by Landers, to push the lead back to 76-67 with 4:17 left.
-And still the Spiders wouldn’t go away. They were within 80-77 with a minute-and-a-half remaining. Landers was Trey-on-the-spot again, putting back another missed shot. Darrell Davis hit two free throws, Josh Cunningham went 1 for 2 at the line and slam home a dunk with 10 seconds left to give the Flyers an 87-79 lead.
Landers? He covered every inch of the floor, doing a whole lot of things and a bucket full of little things en route to a career-high 18 points and nine rebounds.
Josh Cunningham established his own block party in the paint in the first half with 15 points as the Flyers constructed a 12-point lead (32-20). The Spiders made a late charge that cut that lead to 43-35 with 13 seconds left.
But with three seconds left John Crosby constructed a four-point play, a three-point shot and a free throw to push it back to a 12-point lead at halftime, 47-35.
On Saturday, when the Flyers lost at home to Massachusetts, they started the second half with two turnovers that launched the Minutemen to a 62-60 upset.
On Tuesday, the Flyers did the same thing – began the second half with two bad passes and the Spiders tured both into fast break baskets. And it was 47-39.
Guess who stopped it. Yep. Trey Landers drove to the basket for two and UD’s lead was back to 10. That ignited the Flyers on a 10-3 run that produced a 15-point lead, 57-42.
From there the Flyers shook loose from every run Richmond made.
After scoring 15 in the first half, Cunningham watched most of the second half from a sideline chair with foul trouble and finished with 20.
Darrell Davis finished with 17 and John Crosby came off the bench to add 12.
The Flyers hit 33 of 52 shots, a season-best 63 per cent that included 7 of 19 three-pointers and 14 of 15 from the foul line.
Richmond received a surprise performance from Julius ‘Wolfman’ Johnson. He averages 12 points a game. But when he hit a three midway through the second half, he had a career-high 17 and was five of six from the three-point line.
That three pulled the Spiders to within 59-53, but the Flyers finally found the silver bullet and he didn’t score again.
After the victory, Dayton’s first road win of the season, coach Anthony Grant told WHIO’s Larry Hansgen on his postgame show, “I’m proud of the effort the team gave tonight. We handled adversity – two turnovers to start the second half, the same way we started the second half against Massachusetts. We still have to build our toughness and competitiveness.”
The Flyers get that chance Friday night in UD Arena when they try to win back-to-back games for the first time this season, facing Virginia Commonwealth.