By The Associated Press
DAYTON, Ohio — Dayton returned from its Christmas break intent on playing good defense and rebounding. On a poor shooting night, it was the approach the Flyers needed.
Dayton gave Ole Miss few uncontested shots and rode the timely 3-point shooting of Chris Johnson to a 62-50 victory in the final nonconference game for both teams on Friday night.
“Our main focus was defense,” said Dayton reserve Luke Fabrizius.”It was getting stops and getting rebounds.
“I don’t think we would have won a game like this in the beginning of the year because you can’t rely on your offense to win games. You’ve got to have defense, so we stuck together tonight and got it done defensively.”
Fabrizius, a 6-foot-9 3-point specialist, was back on the court after missing three games. He had to play extended minutes after starter Josh Benson left the game in the first half with knee injury. Fabrizius had eight points and five rebounds, but it was a blocked shot midway through the second half that launched Dayton (10-4) on its game-clinching run.
Ole Miss forward Reginald Buckner was about to score when Fabrizius came from the side and swatted the shot to keep Dayton’s lead at 47-40. Then the Rebels’ Dundrecous Nelson broke away for what looked like an easy two, but Dayton’s Johnson ran him down and blocked another would-be basket.
Dayton began an 11-4 run a minute later to take control 58-45 with 3:38 left. The run was capped by a 3-pointer by Fabrizius.
“We won the game because of Luke in a lot of ways,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “Whether he makes shots or doesn’t make shots, he’s able to play 24 minutes.”
Ole Miss (9-4) shot 38.8 percent from the field, including only 1 of 10 on 3-point attempts, and was only 11 of 21 from the free-throw line. The Rebels have lost three straight.
“We’ve let a lot of teams come in here and shoot a very high percentage from 3-point (range), but we did a better job tonight of at least going out there and challenging them,” Dayton’s Paul Williams said. “Even if we can’t block it, we at least try to scare them a little bit.”
Dayton dominated Ole Miss 43-33 on the boards, led by seven apiece by Matt Kavanaugh and Williams. Rebels leading rebounder Murphy Holloway missed his first game of the season with a high ankle sprain. He is averaging 9.6 rebounds and 9.9 points for the Rebels.
“Once they get him back it will be a different story,” Miller said.
Offensively, the second half was a different story for Dayton. The Flyers shot only 27.5 percent in the first half, but benefitted from 13 offensive rebounds to take a 28-23 lead. Had it not been from Johnson making 3 of 6 3-pointers for 10 points, including one at the buzzer, the Flyers would have been trailing.
Johnson, who scored 16 points, made consecutive 3-pointers to spark Dayton to a 39-27 lead. His flurry fueled an 11-5 run to start the second half. The Flyers shot 50 percent for the half to finish at 35.5 percent. They made 5 of 11 3-point shots in the second half.
Johnson, a senior, entered the game averaging 10.1 points and has been an inconsistent scorer with a pair of two-point games to go with six games of 16 points or better.
“CJ had it tonight,” Miller said. “He was sharp.”
Dayton beat Ole Miss for the third time in three seasons. Last season, the Flyers won in overtime at Ole Miss. Two seasons ago they beat the Rebels in the NIT semifinals.
Williams added 12 points for Dayton. Jarvis Williams led Ole Miss with 14 points and Terrance Henry scored 10.
Dayton, which is now 16-6 in the past five seasons against teams from BCS conferences (4-1 this season), has two victories over SEC opponents during the current campaign. The Flyers of the Atlantic 10 also defeated then-No. 16 Alabama on Dec. 7.
“We’ve played a really good schedule and we’re prepared to enter conference play hopefully with some confidence,” Miller said.