Perhaps disoriented by Northwestern’s weird medieval-looking jerseys, Dayton let its guard down early and Northwestern jumped out to an 11-0 lead that it would never relinquish.
Whether due to errant passes, missed shots, or suffocating zone defense from the Wildcats, the Flyers were inept on offense in the first half — some of their shots clanged off the back iron, others hit the top of the backboard, and hardly any went in the basket.
On the other end of the floor, the Wildcats spread the ball around, with five players scoring more than five points in the first half.
Sanjay Lumpkin had a prolific first half, but he eventually fouled out after notching 14 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.
Sam Miller made a three for the Flyers with 10:59 remaining in the first half, and that was Dayton’s last basket for more than nine minutes. The Flyers shot 14.3 percent from the field in the first half and went into the break down 40-17.
The second half was an entirely different story for Archie Miller’s squad. Dayton used the energy from its rambunctious traveling fans to mount a comeback. They began using a full-court press, which led to sloppy turnovers and ill-advised fouls from their Big Ten foes.
The Flyers ate away at the deficit.
Senior Scoochie Smith led a stout second-half Dayton defense. A tough steal and ensuing three from Smith brought the Flyers within four.
Smith scored 16 second-half points en route to a game-high 18, and Dayton outscored Northwestern 47-27 in the second period, almost erasing the deficit entirely.
Besides Smith’s gutty performance, there weren’t many bright spots for the Flyers. Miller can, however, take solace in his team’s fortitude to fight its way back after such an embarrassing first half.
Next, Dayton will take on Vanderbilt and VMI this week before starting league play against La Salle on the Dec. 30.