Preview: Dayton Flyers

The Explorers, coming off a road win against Duquesne, are looking to take another step in the maturation process when it takes on Dayton. The Flyers are a veteran team and another step up the ladder for the Explorers who wish to climb the A-10 standings. This game will be the first game for the La Salle heralded freshmen class in an environment that is among the best in college basketball.

Dayton Probable Starters: (11-4, 1-1)

2 Brian Roberts 6"2 JR. G
32 Marcus Johnson 6"3 FR. G
41 Kurt Huelsman 6"10 FR. C
15 Charles Little 6"6 SO. F
1 Monty Scott 6"6 SR. F

Beating a young Duquesne Duke team in front 1,530 fans is one thing. Beating Dayton on their home floor in front of 12,000 screaming fans in red is another. That is what awaits the young Explorers. This is an environment not seen by many of La Salle's core players. The Flyers are coming off a heartbreaking a 75-74 loss to Rhode Island this past Tuesday night. La Salle won at Duquesne by 16 and headed home to Philadelphia before flying out to Dayton for this game. Those facts portray La Salle to be in a bad spot for this game. While that may be the case, it is apparent that La Salle is going to have to play its best game of the year to come away with another road win in the conference.

Offensively for the Flyers everything revolves around 6"2 junior shooting guard Brian Roberts. He is third in the A-10 scoring 17.7 pts/game and is a threat behind the arc hitting over 42% from deep. Roberts is also a very good free throw shooter as well. He is the Flyers only double-digit scorer on a team at the bottom end of the conference scoring the basketball. If you stop Roberts you have a good chance to beat the Flyers. Despite having only Roberts as a double-digit scorer, Dayton still has some capable players who can score on any given night. Notorious Explorer killer Monty Scott is someone the Explorers must find as well on the perimeter. Scott is a streaky shooter who can convert multiple three pointers on a team quickly and has burned La Salle before with his shooting. Rugged forwards Charles Little and Norman Plummer are both forwards who prey on put-backs and passes off dribble penetration in the paint. Neither will hurt La Salle outside but they are solid contributors who play a controlled game and wait for their opportunities. 6"3 freshman point guard Marcus Johnson rounds out the scorers for the Flyers. His play has fallen off a bit since opening the season with a bang, perhaps hitting the proverbial freshman wall. However he is a decent shooter and penetrator. If La Salle can get the Dayton starters in foul trouble it will bode well for the Explorers. The Flyers bench is not nearly as good as the starters and one can see the drop in talent once Dayton has to go to the bench. The Explorers depth could hurt the Flyers should their starters get into trouble with fouls.

La Salle has started well the last two games getting double digit leads on both Massachusetts and Duquesne. Something they struggled to do earlier in the year. The freshmen have begun to assert themselves and are beginning to define their roles. Rodney Green, Ruben Guillandeaux, and Kimmani Barrett in particular have stepped up their games. Yves Mekongo-Mbala has been very good in spots and struggled in others. He has struggled shooting fouls but has helped the Explorers in other ways. Brian Grimes, limited by injury, still has battled and given the Explorers quality minutes. Darnell Harris still has not put together a full 40 minutes game despite being very good in spots. Mike St. John, coming off an 11rebound performance against the Dukes has also struggled to put 40 minutes together. Sherman Diaz contributed last game shooting 4 for 7 from the floor. Experienced players like Harris, St. John, and Diaz are critical to the success of this team. Continued good play from those players and the freshmen development provide a bright future for the program but for now the question is whether they are ready to take that next step?

The freshman class has given but now looks to be on the verge of taking away games from opponents. Dayton is a major step up for this team. They have played the likes of Louisville, North Carolina, and Pittsburgh. They play great defense (2nd in the conference) and will try to force La Salle into offensive mistakes and get out in transition. Can the Explorers stay patient and get Darnell Harris involved early in the game? Can they play well with 12,000 fans screaming against them? As I stated earlier, this is not an environment the La Salle freshmen have ever seen. Perhaps that is a good thing. Perhaps they don't know any better and will just go out an play. Can the Explorers fly in Dayton? To take the next step in the maturation process they have to. And they have to mature further to win at UD arena.

Keys to victory:
Contain Roberts
Crash the boards and get 2nd chance opportunities
Limit turnovers
Quiet the Dayton crowd

Cove Nuggets:
Dayton played without Norman Plummer, which coach Brian Gregory said was because he didn't meet his responsibilities, for the Rhode Island game but will return to face the Explorers.