DAYTON, Ohio (AP)—When Alabama cut a 16-point lead to four, Kevin Dillard had just the right response.
Dayton’s point guard made a pair of 3-pointers to put the Flyers back out in front by a comfortable margin and send them on the way to a 74-62 win over the No. 16 Crimson Tide.
“When they went on their run and we were only up by four, the pressure was kind of on us,” Dillard said. “That was kind of like a pressure release because then the ball’s in their court.”
Chris Johnson scored 20 points and Dayton closed with a 17-9 run to beat a major-conference team for the third time this season—ruining Tide coach Anthony Grant’s homecoming.
“The crowd tonight was really, really passionate and enthusiastic,” Grant said. “I realize why we won so many games here when I played.”
Grant starred for the Flyers from 1983-87.
Alabama fell behind 38-27 at halftime with star forward JaMychal Green on the bench most of the first half with two fouls. Green scored the Tide’s first six points and finished with 12 on 6 of 9 shooting.
The Flyers lost 84-55 at home to Buffalo a week ago when they shot 28.1 percent. Then they lost 75-58 at Murray State on Sunday. All this after winning three straight over Wake Forest, Fairfield and Minnesota to win a Thanksgiving weekend tournament in Orlando.
“This is the Dayton team,” said Dillard, who transferred from Southern Illinois. “The one from the last two games is when we’re not ready and focused. We’ve got to attack every day with the same mentality.”
Dayton (6-3) led 56-40 with 11:52 to play when Alabama increased its defensive pressure to cut its deficit to 57-53 with 7:43 left.
After the Flyers wilted under Alabama’s full-court pressure and traps in the second half, Dillard erased the ball-handling and passing errors of his team with those two 3-pointers that pushed Dayton’s lead to 63-53.
The Flyers shot 60.9 percent from the floor and 10 of 19 from 3-point range to score the most points Alabama has allowed this season. Tide opponents were shooting just 33.3 percent from the field entering the game.
Josh Parker came off the Dayton bench to make 3 of 5 3-pointers and score 17 points. Dillard added 14 and Josh Benson 11.
Alabama, which lost its second straight game, was playing a true road game for the first time this season. The Tide finally found some momentum with a full-court, trapping defense. Green’s steal at half court as he came up to trap Dayton’s Devin Oliver led to a layup for Trevor Releford that cut Dayton’s lead to 57-53 with 7:43 to play.
Alabama had extended its 2-3 zone, giving Dayton’s offense problems. Then Dillard busted that zone with consecutive 3-pointers to push the lead to 63-53 with 6:09 left.
“They came out with great passion,” Grant said of Dayton. “When we were down 14-16 our pride and passion kicked in. It should have been that way for 40 minutes.”
Dayton had lost its two previous games against Buffalo and Murray State. In the 84-55 home loss to Buffalo one week ago, Dayton shot 28.1 percent from the field in a sluggish effort. But the Flyers were hot from the start and shot 64 percent in the first half.
Dayton quickly jumped to a 46-29 lead in the second half on 3-pointers by Paul Williams and Johnson and a 15-footer by Benson. Dayton led 56-40 midway through the half when Alabama began to chip away on layups by Releford and Tony Mitchell to force a Dayton timeout with the Flyers up 56-45.
Alabama increased its defensive pressure out of the timeout and quickly cut its deficit to 56-49 on a steal and layup by Releford and a steal by Green that led to an easy two for Mitchell. Then it was 57-51 on another easy two for Releford.
Mitchell led Alabama with 18 points and Releford added 13. The Tide shot 50 percent from the floor, but made only 4 of 16 3-point shots and was outrebounded 26-24.