32 years after president Jimmy Carter vacated the Oval Office and the Dayton Flyers have still not been able to defeat the Xavier Musketeers in Cincinnati. That winning streak, which now spans at 28 games, was in serious jeopardy heading into the final seconds of the game on Wednesday night at the Cintas Center, but the Musketeers were able to hold down their home-court, defeating Dayton by a score of 66-61.
Dayton sharpshooter Matt Derenbecker got a very good look from three point ranger with less than five seconds remaining which could've tied the game up at, but the shot rattled out, eventually falling into the hands of Justin Martin who knocked down two free throws to give Xavier a five point win.
Looking at the statistics it's difficult to believe how Dayton was able to keep the game close down the stretch. Usually the Atlantic 10's top rebounding team, Dayton was manhandled on the boards on Wednesday, losing the battle of the glass 36-18, including giving the Muskteers 20 offensive rebounds (leading to a Xavier advantage in both point in the paint and second chance points).
The first half was pretty uneventful for both teams, with Xavier finishing off the period with a 31-27 advantage. The Musketeers defended particularly well in the first twenty minutes, forcing the Flyers into tough perimeter jumpers, with only Derenbecker, who went 3/4 in the first half, being able to consistently connect. Xavier held Dayton's leader, senior point guard Kevin Dillard, to a scoreless half, but Dayton was able to stay within four due to some careless Musketeer turnovers which led to easy points the other way for the Flyers.
The Musketeers looked to be on the verge of pulling away early in the second half when their 11-2 run, which made the score 47-40, caused Dayton head coach Archie Miller to burn a timeout with 11:03 remaining in the game. However, Miller must've said something to get the Flyers back into gear, as Dayton responded with a 9-4 mini run over the next few minutes to pull back within two at 51-49 at the 7:55 media timeout.
The crucial point in that run came at the end when Xavier post man Isaiah Philmore went down with an ankle sprain. Philmore was taken back to the locker room for treatment and did return to the bench, but saw no more action. Team sources are listing Philmore's condition as day to day going forward.
Fueled by the play of Dillard, who scored all 12 of his points in the second half (all of which came from beyond the three point line), the Flyers refused to go away in the Cintas Center. The tides appeared to be changing with 2:45 to go when Dyshawn Pierre made a three pointer to give Dayton their first lead since midway in the first half, as the Flyers took a 59-58 advantage.
The lead then switched hands several times from there, including when Xavier senior post Travis Taylor connected on a tip in with 1:58 to go.
Dayton then went to another freshman, as forward Jalen Robinson scored in the post, followed by a response from Xavier's top freshman, Semaj Christon, who hit a jumper with 59 seconds left to give Xavier the lead back for good at 62-61.
Xavier then got the defensive stop they needed, which resulted in Taylor heading to the foul line with 24 seconds left, setting up a chaotic chain of events. Taylor missed the free throw, but the miss was rebounded by Dee Davis, sending the small sophomore to the line for a chance to extend the lead. Davis followed by missing his free throw, but somehow the smallest man on the court came away with his own rebound, leading to another trip to the foul line with 18 seconds left. This time Davis wouldn't miss, as he knocked down two straight to give Xavier a full possession lead at 64-61.
That make set up the sequence where Derenbecker missed the open three pointer which would've tied, culminating in the Martin free throws which cemented the game, and led to Xavier's student section's chants of, "Jimmy Carter!"
For the game, the Musketeers were led by the 14 points of Dee Davis, 13 points of Semaj Christon and the critical 12 points of Jeff Robinson, who really asserted himself in his final home game against the Flyers. Travis Taylor and Justin Martin each added 8 points for Xavier, while Philmore also chipped in 8 despite the injury, and Brad Redford added 3.
As mentioned, the rebounding numbers were excellent for Xavier, led by the 11 of Taylor. In the contest Xavier also out-shot Dayton from the field, holding a 58% to 48% advantage in a game where the shooting numbers were deceptively high, mainly due to efficient offensive possessions down the stretch.
For Dayton, Dillard scored 12 points, transfer wing Vee Sanford led all players with 16 points, Derenbecker added 9 and wing Devin Oliver contributed 8 points. Xavier did a nice job on Dayton's other leader, senior post Josh Benson, who was held to just 3 points and 1 rebound.
With the win, the Musketeers advance to 12-8 and 5-2 in the Atlantic 10, with ten regular season games to go. The Musketeers will be back in action next on Saturday, when they travel to Richmond for a conference road game which will tip at 6 PM ET.