By Jon Rothstein
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Archie Miller may be in his first year as a head coach but he reacts to news — good or bad the only way he knows how — emotionally.
When Miller found out that Dayton’s starting power forward Josh Benson was lost for the season a few weeks ago, he didn’t stay composed — he expressed concern.
“I panicked a little bit,” Miller said following the Flyers 87-72 win over Xavier on Saturday. “We were limited on numbers to begin with and Josh was our most versatile player. When we came to the realization that we didn’t have him, we knew we had to play as fast as we possibly could in order to have a chance to win.”
And that’s exactly what’s happened.
Since Benson’s injury, the Flyers have won four of their last five games and are in sole possession of first place in the Atlantic 10.
“Without Josh we’ve lost a bit of an edge on defense but in place of that, we’ve put a fourth shooter on the floor,” Miller said. “That’s opened our offense.”
In the five games since Benson’s injury, Dayton has averaged 81 points per contest — mostly in part to the play making ability of junior point guard Kevin Dillard. A transfer from Southern Illinois, the floor general has transformed the Flyers offensively.
“Without him, we don’t win a game,” Miller said of Dillard. “He sat out last year and didn’t play at all so he may have flown under the radar. Still, Kevin was Rookie of the Year in the Missouri Valley Conference as a freshman and put up solid numbers in both of his years in that league.”
Through 19 games, Dillard is leading Dayton in scoring at 12.3 points per game while handing out 5.8 assists per outing. His breakdown skills has proven to be a solid complement to the shooting ability of Chris Johnson, Paul Williams, and Josh Parker on the wings with Matt Kavanaugh emerging as a presence in the paint. Kavanaugh has scored 43 points and grabbing 18 rebounds in the Flyer’s last two games.
“He embodies everything we’re about,” Miller said of Kavanaugh. “He has good hands and a really good feel.”
The road doesn’t get any easier for Dayton with a trip to dangerous St. Joseph’s looming on Wednesday.
“We know we have a long way to go,” Miller said. “We’re just trying to keep doing what we’re doing.”
THOMAS WILL BLEND:
While Dayton will lose the shooting of Parker, Williams, and Johnson after this season, they’ll add a tremendous point guard in Our Savior New American’s Jevon Thomas.
The 5-foot-11 Thomas initially committed to St. John’s before pledging to the Flyers this past fall.
Look for Miller to play Thomas next to Dillard next season with Thomas having the potential to have a monster career in the Atlantic-10.
Think former Seton Hall point guard Eugene Harvey with a better jump shot.
HURLEY PRAISES MACHADO:
Wagner coach Danny Hurley isn’t surprised to see Iona’s Scott Machado being mentioned among the elite point guards in all of college basketball.
Before Hurley was a head coach in college, he was at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark for nine years and Machado was one of his favorite players.
“The thing about Scott that stands out is how he embraces the big moment,” Hurley said of Machado. “He’s not afraid of pressure. He’s got that Jason Kidd like quality to elevate everyone around him.”
ANDERSON TO HAVE IMPACT IN 2012-13:
Wagner may have made national headlines with their success this season but you get the feeling the ceiling could be greater for the Staten Island school next year because of the addition of Dwaun Anderson.
A 6-foot-5 guard with unlimited potential, Anderson committed to Michigan State initially before winding up with the Seahawks.
“He’s going to have an impact above the rim and beyond the 3-point line,” Hurley said of Anderson.