DAYTON, Ohio – University of Dayton Arena is among the toughest environments for visiting teams. Typically, when the hometown Flyers are on the verge of a run, the crowd’s energy carries them through.
On Saturday afternoon, St. Bonaventure found an antidote in sophomore guard Jaylen Adams, whose clutch shots silenced 13,455 fans.
Adams matched his season and career highs with 31 points, including the go-ahead three-pointer with 36 seconds left, lifting the Bonnies to a 79-72 upset of 15th-ranked Dayton.
“I’m a happy man. Words can’t even explain,” Adams said. “The No. 15 team in the country in their home and we got the win. We came in here and we rallied together. We knew we were trying to make history.”
St. Bonaventure (18-7, 10-4, Atlantic 10) was coming off a loss at last-place La Salle on Wednesday and had not beaten a ranked team in a true road game since at least 1975, and it may be much longer. According to the website Sports-Reference.com, the 1960 Bonnies defeated ninth-ranked Villanova in Philadelphia.
“This wasn’t an easy thing to do,” Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said. “Incredibly difficult. Coming off a loss, and to come into this environment and to not only win but to play well. We made plays when we needed to make plays. It’s hard with this crowd to keep your emotions under control and make those types of plays.”
Dayton (21-5, 11-3), playing without leading scorer Kendall Pollard on Saturday, had won 77 straight games without losing two straight. The last time the Flyers had a losing streak was the 2013-14 season. It also broke the Flyers’ 20-game home winning streak in the Atlantic 10.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had to deal with something like this,” coach Archie Miller said. “We’ll find out what we’re made of. Things are going to get more difficult for us moving forward.”
Dayton got 22 points from guard Charles Cooke and 18 from guard Scoochie Smith on Saturday but had the lead for only one minute and 59 seconds. The game was tied five times, but almost each time it was Adams who broke it. His two free throws gave Bona a 37-36 lead in the first half. His basket tied it at 54 before he completed a three-point play to make it 55-54. Then came the clutch three that put Bona ahead for good. Also, Adams hit a three-pointer at the buzzer at the end of the first half giving his team a 40-36 advantage.
“He was terrific the whole game,” Schmidt said. “But I thought one of the biggest shots he made was right before halftime when he gave us momentum going into the locker room.”
It was clear from the opening tip that St. Bonaventure had come to play.
The Bonnies roared to a 15-5 lead behind forward Dion Wright’s seven quick points, including a three-pointer.
Wright, who has 11 double-doubles this season, had 15 points and eight rebounds on Saturday.
Adams and Wright played the entire 40 minutes for the Bonnies. Guard Marcus Posley added 12 points for the Bonnies in 38 minutes.
Forward Steve McElvene helped negate Pollard’s absence for Dayton. The redshirt freshman scored 12 points for the Flyers.
After going 2 of 9 from beyond the arc in the first half, the Flyers hit their first three three-point attempts after halftime.
Three-pointers by Smith and Cooke helped Dayton tie the score 42-42 early in the second half.
Dayton regained the lead on Cooke’s layup which resulted in a three-point play to make the score 54-52.
Every time Dayton got on a roll, however, Adams and the Bonnies made a play to calm the Flyers and the sellout crowd.
If it was not Adams, it was freshman guard Nelson Kaputo, who hit two three-pointers, his first points of the game, to put the Bonnies ahead 65-60.
McElvene’s tip-in tied the score, 72-72, with 58 seconds left, setting up Adams’ heroics moments later.
Following his go-ahead three, Adams hit four free throws in the closing seconds to help the Bonnies hang on for the win.
“They’re down and they should be,” Miller said of his team’s postgame mood. “We have some guys who need to look in the mirror. They should be disgusted.”