Dillard leads Dayton past Alabama 81-76
Kevin Dillard scored 25 points and Josh Benson 19 to lead Dayton to an 81-76 victory over Alabama on Wednesday night.
It was the seventh straight win against SEC opponents for the Flyers (6-2), who improved to 19-8 in the past six seasons against teams from BCS conferences.
Trevor Lacey had 16 points and Levi Randolph 15 to lead Alabama (6-2), which, partly due to injuries, used a different starting lineup for the fifth consecutive game.
Dayton was in control pretty much from start to finish, although the Crimson Tide, which led briefly on two occasions, came back from a double-digit deficit late in the game to make the score more respectable when Lacey made a 3-pointer as the clock was winding down.
"It was a really good win for our team," said Dayton coach Archie Miller. "I thought that Kevin was fabulous when we started the game. He gave us a lot of confidence and it carried over to everyone. Quite frankly, I felt that he dominated the game; that is what a great point guard does. . We have a long way to go and we will go as far as he can take us.
"We had a lot of guys that stepped up in big moments," continued Miller. "It was a good team effort against obviously a very good team."
Vee Sanford added 13 points for Dayton, while Dillard also had six assists, Benson six rebounds and Devin Oliver seven points and seven rebounds.
Trevor Releford added 13 points and Rodney Cooper 12 for Alabama.
Ahead 3-2, Dayton scored 10 straight points on back-to-back 3-pointers by Benson and Dillard, a fast-break layup by Oliver and a dunk by Benson to jump out to a 13-2 lead at the 15:40 mark.
Behind 20-9, the Crimson Tide went on an 11-2 run to cut the lead to 23-22 on a layup by Randolph with 7:59 left in the half.
After trailing by 11 on four occasions, Alabama took its first lead of the game, 26-25, when Lacey made two free throws with 5:04 to go. The Flyers then outscored the Tide 13-7 to take a 38-33 lead at intermission.
"It was a big deal for our team to weather the first run," said Miller.
Dayton maintained its lead throughout the second half. Alabama came within three, 47-44, on a dunk by Lacey at the 16:39 mark, but that was as close as the Tide would get.
The Flyers steadily extended their lead to 70-55, their largest of the game, on a layup by Dillard with 5:40 remaining.
The Tide began chipping away at the lead, but it was too little, too late.
"It was the first time all season that we continued to battle in the second half. It got crazy at the end, but we were able to withstand it," Miller said.
Alabama coach Anthony Grant, who played at Dayton, was impressed by the play of his alma mater.
"I give all the credit to Dayton tonight," he said. "They came out right from the jump-start and set the tone of the game. They were the more prepared team today. It's a tough loss for us, but it's a learning opportunity for our team. It's an opportunity for me to evaluate.
"Dillard dominated the first half. He was by far the best player on the floor."
Cooper agreed with his coach's assessment of Dillard.
"He's a really good point guard," he said. "He's the head of the snake, and he basically ran the show.
"(Dayton) was breaking the press and beating us down the court most of the time. They were also playing with more passion than we were."
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