Dayton's special season being derailed by injuries

Updated: February 3, 2008

Geoff Burke/US Presswire

Dayton's key injuries of late have put more scoring pressure on Brian Roberts.

Key Shot

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. -- If you want to know the real difference between traditional hoops powers and programs such as Dayton, it's not skill. It's depth.

You remember the full-strength Flyers. They won at Louisville and drilled Pitt on their way to a 14-1 record and a national ranking. Rhode Island certainly remembers. Dayton shredded the visiting Rams with 62 percent shooting in a 92-83 win Jan. 9.

That night, though, second-leading scorer Chris Wright broke his ankle. Three games later, fourth-leading scorer Charles Little broke his foot.

Suddenly, the depth Dayton used to grind teams down was gone, and so was its near invincibility. After an 82-70 loss Saturday afternoon, the short-handed Flyers have dropped four of their past five games. With them down to 3-4 in the Atlantic 10 (15-5 overall), what was once an extremely promising season has become an exercise in survival.

"With some of these injuries now, guys are playing six, seven, eight more minutes a game," Dayton coach Brian Gregory said. "People don't realize how important that is if you want to play pressure defense and push the ball up the court like we want to play. Even though it's one or two guys, when the second guy went down, then we had to start playing some of our 3-men at the 4, and now you're really stretched."

The result has been that Dayton's offense has struggled while its normally staunch defense has been getting shredded. On Saturday, the Flyers got the tempo they wanted but not the execution. The normally run-and-gun Rams still made 11 3s and committed only five turnovers.

It was the fifth time in seven league games that the Flyers have been well below average defensively. With potent shooting guard Brian Roberts as the only reliable scoring option right now, there's too much strain on the offense to keep the Flyers in games.

"I think when we focus on offense, that's when we get into trouble and let teams score a lot of points," Roberts said. "… We know we're not going to outscore people. We have to focus on our defense and that will get our offense going, and we'll be in every game if we do that."

It's one thing to be in games. It's another to win some, and the Flyers need to start doing that quickly. They got Little back Saturday, albeit for 19 quiet minutes. But according to Gregory, Dayton probably won't have Wright back for another three weeks or so. Until then, Gregory hopes his team is benefiting from the adversity.

"It's tough at times," Gregory said, "but I think in the long haul, it might make us better coming down the stretch run."

Writer's Take

WESTWOOD, Calif. -- UCLA's home loss to USC two weeks ago didn't provoke any kind of decisive team meeting.

Everyone on the Bruins knew what was at stake.

But UCLA coach Ben Howland didn't mind reminding them that the best route to San Antonio -- the site of this year's Final Four -- was through the first two rounds in Anaheim and the Phoenix regional as the West's No. 1 seed. And there was no way UCLA would get that coveted No. 1 seed without winning the Pac-10.

"That's what coach said: We can't get as far as we want unless we win the Pac-10," said UCLA sophomore guard Russell Westbrook.

Well, do you think they listened?

The loss to USC, which junior Josh Shipp said left the UCLA players "disgusted with ourselves," might have given some teams in the Pac-10 hope that they could unseat the Bruins for the conference title. The past four games, though, probably have crushed that chance.

Mathematically it's still possible that UCLA -- holding a one-game lead in the loss column on second-place Stanford, which already lost to the Bruins -- could drop out of first place. But it's hard to make the argument.

Since the loss to USC, UCLA has swept through Oregon and Oregon State on the road, then totally dismantled Arizona State by 33 and pounced on previously hot Arizona 82-60 Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion -- the largest margin of victory in the series since 1983.

For all of Katz's story, click here.

Key Notes

• Look no further than Jason Thompson of Rider for the top performance in college hoops Saturday. The senior scored 23 points, grabbed 21 rebounds and dished out five assists in the Broncs' 89-75 win at Siena. The last Division I player to reach 20 points, 20 rebounds and five assists in a road game that ended in regulation was Tim Duncan. The Wake Forest product had 21 points, 23 rebounds and six assists on Feb. 22, 1997, at Virginia. Four months later, he was the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.

• More on Thompson: He is the second player this season to have two games with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds. The other is Kansas State freshman phenom Michael Beasley.

• The biggest upset in college hoops Saturday happened at Penn State, where the Nittany Lions knocked off seventh-ranked Michigan State. The Nittany Lions attempted an astonishing 51 free throws in this game -- a new record for a Spartans opponent in a single game. The previous record was 49 by Colorado on Dec. 28, 1956.

• More oddities from the Penn State win over Michigan State: The Nittany Lions' Mike Walker hit a 3-point FG with 7:11 remaining in the game to put Penn State up 65-64. That was Penn State's last field goal. The team's final 20 points were scored at the charity stripe.

Eddie Sutton of San Francisco got his 800th career win at Pepperdine as the Dons beat the Waves 85-82. He is the fifth head coach to record 800 Division I wins in the history of men's college hoops. The others are Bob Knight, Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp and Jim Phelan. Sutton is the only one of the five to get No. 800 on the road.

• Cal and Stanford both traveled to the state of Washington this week -- and both swept Washington and Washington State. That's the first time the Bay Area Pac-10 schools have swept the Washington Pac-10 schools on the road since the 2000-01 season.

• Chicago State's David Holston and Central Arkansas' Nate Bowie each scored 39 points -- the top scoring performances in Division I on Saturday.

• NJIT's Nesho Milosevic had his fifth career double-double Saturday, going off for a career-high 27 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. He was 9-for-9 from the free-throw line and 9-for-15 from the floor. But, alas, it was not enough to keep the Highlanders from dropping to 0-23 this season. They lost at home to Utah Valley State 81-69.

• Portland State's Deonte Huff was 17-for-17 from the free-throw line in Saturday's win against Montana State. That is the most free throws made without a miss by a Division I player this season. Huff's performance at the line contributed to his career-high 26 points.

• The most dominating defensive performance by a Division I team Saturday? Check out the VCU Rams, who defeated Towson 65-42. They held the Tigers to 14-for-55 shooting (25.5 percent) from the floor, and only one Towson player scored more than six points. The Rams actually had more steals (17) than the Tigers had field goals. VCU freshman Joey Rodriguez had seven of those steals -- tied for the most by a Division I player in Saturday's action.

• More on VCU: "The Larry Sanders Show" was on HBO during the 1990s before its run ended, but it was renewed on Saturday. VCU freshman Larry Sanders had seven blocked shots -- one shy of his career high. Sanders has three or more blocked shots in 12 games this season, and VCU is 12-0 in those contests.

• In other strange but true news, Richmond's leading-scorer Dan Geriot set a career high with nine turnovers at Charlotte. He tied a season low with four points and, in one of his worst shooting performances of the season, shot 2-for-9 from the floor. For the second time this season, he did not get to the free-throw line at all. Of course, the Spiders still won their fourth A-10 game of the season -- equaling their mark from all of last season.



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On Tap For Sunday

• Wake Forest at NC State, Noon ET (ESPN Full Court)
• No. 4 North Carolina at Florida State, 2 ET
• No. 13 Wisconsin at Minnesota, 2 ET

For the full schedule, click here.

Top 25 Scores From Saturday

• No. 1 Memphis 70, UTEP 64
• No. 2 Kansas 72, Colorado 59
• No. 3 Duke 88, Miami (Fla.) 73
• No. 5 UCLA 82, Arizona 60
• No. 6 Georgetown 73, Seton Hall 61
• Penn State 85, No. 7 Michigan State 76
• No. 8 Tennessee 76, No. 25 Mississippi State 71
• No. 14 Stanford 67, No. 9 Wazzu 65 (OT)
• No. 10 Texas 80, Baylor 72
• No. 15 Xavier 75, La Salle 62
• No. 16 Marquette 75, Cincinnati 60
• No. 17 Drake 83, Indiana State 77
• No. 18 Vanderbilt 78, Auburn 71
• Arkansas 80, No. 19 Florida 61
• No. 20 Saint Mary's 86, Portland 49
• UConn 60, No. 21 Pitt 53
• South Carolina 80, No. 22 Mississippi 77
• No. 23 Texas A&M 60, Oklahoma 62
• Missouri 77, No. 24 Kansas State 74

Nittany Lions knock off Spartans

More Saturday Scores Of Note

• Syracuse 87, Villanova 73
• Purdue 83, Illinois 75
• Iowa 53, Ohio State 48
• Cal 79, Washington 75
• USC 67, Arizona State 53
• Gonzaga 87, Santa Clara 82 (2OT)
• Utah State 77, Nevada 63
• San Francisco 85, Pepperdine 82**
**Eddie Sutton's 800th career win

For all scores, click here.

West Virginia beats the Friars

Writer's Take

By Chris Low

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- This past summer, Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury pulled Bruce Pearl aside and casually planted the kiss of death on his Tennessee counterpart.

"I told him he has a chance to compete for a national championship," Stansbury recounted in his customary hoarse voice. "That doesn't mean he's going to win it. But his team is good enough to compete for one. They absolutely have all the pieces."

Stansbury saw nothing Saturday night that would change his mind after his 25th-ranked Bulldogs came roaring back from a 17-point, second-half deficit only to see the No. 8-ranked Vols steady themselves just enough to squeeze out a 76-71 victory at Humphrey Coliseum.

"They just keep coming at you with players, good players," said Mississippi State guard Jamont Gordon, who went "Chris Lofton" on the Vols and almost single-handedly shot the Bulldogs to an improbable comeback win.

"You look up, and there's different guys coming into the game, different faces and different looks," Gordon said. "It's like that the whole game. They just keep sending them in. That's the difference in us and them.

"That's the difference in them and most teams."

For more of Low's story, click here.

Texas beats Baylor for the 21st straight time

Path To Perfection

UTEP gave No. 1 Memphis quite a scare Saturday. The Tigers, who trailed the Miners with 2:35 to play, found a way to squeak out a 70-64 win. Memphis shot just 21-for-41 from the free-throw line and 1-for-17 from 3-point range but still found a way to win.

With the win, the Tigers (21-0 overall, 7-0 Conference USA) remain the only undefeated team in Division I men's hoops. Here is their remaining regular-season schedule.

Feb. 6 Southern Methodist, 9 p.m. ET
Feb. 9 Central Florida, 4 p.m. ET
Feb. 13 Houston, 9 p.m. ET
Feb. 16 at UAB, 8 p.m. ET
Feb. 20 at Tulane, 8 p.m. ET
Feb. 23 Tennessee, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Feb. 27 Tulsa, 9 p.m. ET
March 1 at Southern Miss, 4 p.m. ET
March 5 at Southern Methodist, 8 p.m. ET
March 8 UAB, 1 p.m. ET

Arkansas stomps Florida in SEC play

Quotable …

We're going to give the kids a day off [Sunday] to root for the Patriots. And any kid who doesn't root for the Patriots, there's no big price, he just can't come to Syracuse [for Wednesday's game].

--Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said after his team's 60-53 win over No. 21 Pitt on Saturday.