Senior Night at the Robins Center quickly turned into Junior Night as T.J. Cline scored 36 points and Dayton junior Scoochie Smith scored 26 as Dayton hung on to beat Richmond Tuesday night.
From the opening tip, it was clear that Cline was having a special night as he scored 12 of Richmond’s first 22 points. Cline poured in 18 in each half and finished the game with 13-20 shooting from the field and 8-9 from the free throw line along with three assists and two rebounds.
“Very very impressive getting to see T.J. Cline for the first time this year and we really had no answer for him,” Dayton head coach Archie Miller said. Miller noted that he held freshman big man Steve McElvene out of the game after only two minutes on the floor because it was clear that Cline had an insurmountable quickness advantage against him.
Cline’s effort wasn’t enough though as the Spiders lost 85-84. Cline hit a deep 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left to bring Richmond within a point, but it was too late as the Flyers inbounded the ball and time immediately expired.
Richmond seized the lead with 8:12 remaining in the first half and went into halftime with a five-point lead, which grew to as much as 11 in the second half. That margin evaporated quickly as the second half wore on and it seemed as if the Dayton offense had adjusted well, leaving Spider defenders scrambling around, unable to get to Dayton shooters in time. Cline pinpointed opponents making halftime adjustments as the main reason for the Spiders’ season-long struggle on defense in the second half of games.
“We know their plays back-and-forth, but I think sometimes when they change it up, that confuses us a little bit,” Cline said. “With such a veteran group we’ve had, we should be able to adjust a little better, but we haven’t quite figured that out.”
While Cline’s comments ring true over the course of the season, Dayton’s comeback Tuesday was largely attributable to Scoochie Smith’s excellent second half. Smith scored 24 of his 26 points in the second half on 7-8 from the field and 8-10 from the line and he really hurt the Spiders from everywhere on the floor. Charles Cooke helped him out with 13 of his 21 points coming in the second half as well. Dyshawn Pierre had a good game before fouling out as well, finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Both teams shot over 50 percent from the field, but Dayton set itself apart from beyond the arc, connecting on 9-15 of its long distance opportunities compared to just 4-17 for Richmond. The Spiders won the turnover battle 12-5 and they didn’t allow a single steal by the Flyers all game, exhibiting excellent ball control. Unfortunately, the Spiders had a characteristically poor performance on the boards as the Flyers won the rebounding battle 34-23 in a game where there weren’t too many misses.
Seniors John Moran, Trey Davis, Deion Taylor and Terry Allen took the court with their families before their final home game and received a standing ovation from the crowd for Senior Night. Allen played well, scoring 16 points despite missing a few key free throws down the stretch and sophomore Shawndre’ Jones finished with an even 20. Trey Davis fouled out with a few minutes to play and received a huge standing ovation from the crowd as he walked back to the bench for the last time at the Robins Center. Taylor drew yet another start and Moran saw time in the last few seconds of the game.
The Spiders shift their focus ahead to their regular season finale, a road game against George Mason on Saturday. After that, Richmond looks forward to the Atlantic 10 Tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, which the Spiders would almost certainly have to win if they hope to be a part of the NCAA Tournament.