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Dayton Flyers vs. UMass Minutemen Final: Size does matter in this one as UMass bullies Dayton 66-64

Cady Lalanne dominates the smaller competition inside with 18 points.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Massachusetts Minutemen put the pressure on from the beginning as they started off the game with a Donte Clark steal that ended with Trey Davis hitting a trey.

The Minutemen had a steady four to six point lead for most the first half. This was due in large part to "big daddy" Cady Lalanne and his 14 first half points, all layups. Lalanne was the focal point of the offense as UMass looked to pound the paint against the vertically challenged Dayton Flyers. He would finish the game with a team high 18 points shooting 9-15 from the floor. Dayton struggled defending him as they tried everything from fronting him to collapsing four guys onto him in the low post. Lalanne added seven boards and was a terror defending the rim, rejecting two shots.

As UMass was looking to cruise into the half as they had the ball and were working for the last shot. A Jabarie Hinds layup gone wrong led to a Flyers fast break that saw Jordan Sibert hit a wide open three as time expired to cut the UMass lead to two, 36-34.

Sibert's scoring was on display tonight as he scored a game high 19 points on 8-13 shooting from the floor and 3-5 from three.

The Flyers were able to take a small 44-42 lead with 16:33 left in the second half as Dyshawn Pierre flushed one down. That wouldn't last long though with Cady Lalanne hitting a short jumper and sparking a 10-1 run that was capped by a Tyler Bergantino one handed tomahawk.

Donte Clark didn't have a basket during that crucial run but he did asssist on two of the buckets. He would add seven more and those nine assists are the most for a Minutemen this season. Adding three steals and Clark had one of the more selfless games to date. The only thing he did wrong was go 0-4 from deep.

While that run gave UMass the lead that they would hold until the final buzzer sounded it didn't stop Dayton from making a late push. Down 60-52 with just five minutes remaining in the game they made their case. Dayton went on a 7-2 run thanks to UMass going cold from the floor and a Maxie Esho turnover.

Thankfully for UMass Scoochie Smith grabbed a rebound down just three but stepped out of bounds, giving UMass possession. A further look revealed that he actually hadn't stepped out which is unfortunate but Smith had thrown it to Lalanne anyways.

Maxie Esho added his usual highlight dunk but other than that was fairly quite offensively. He had eight points but made his chances count going 4-4 from the field and added nine boards. He struggled with the smaller defenders on Dayton as he had trouble holding on to the ball on his way to four turnovers.

Dayton seemed to get worn down playing just seven guys against the Minutemen's ten man rotation. Dyshawn Pierre did his best battling down low securing 13 rebounds with six offensive. He distributed excellently with seven assists but struggled shooting hitting just 3-10 from the floor for seven points. Kendall Pollard was another Flyer that stepped up and had a big impact on the game. Besides from setting hard screens, Pollard scored 12 points on 50 percent shooting and had a big impact on the defensive side of the floor with three blocks and two steals.

Trey Davis would hit all four of his free throws down the stretch to put the game away which actually was more important than it seemed at the time as Darrell Davis banked a deep three with four seconds left to make it 66-64. Davis had a very scary moment at the end of the game when Dayton's Kendall Pollard set a hard screen on Davis which knocked him to the floor where he stayed for a while. He was eventually helped off and taken to the locker room. Despite that Davis had a very nice game with 15 points and four assists. He was just 4-11 from the field but going 5-5 from the line certainly helps.

UMass' eccentric sixth man, Jabarie Hinds, was waiting for a matchup like this. Playing against a small team that likes to run and push the tempo is right up Hinds alley. He scored only six points but played a lot of minutes with no turnovers which has been a problem for the transfer.

Dayton's three point shooting was what kept them in it as they hit 7-22 compared to the Minutemen's paltry 4-14. Free throws however are what kept them from winning. They were just 7-14 and missed some big ones down the stretch that could have changed the outcome.

Thanks to Clark, UMass was able to assists 20 of their 27 baskets. They had a lot of easy buckets that was due to their huge size advantage but also they were playing good team basketball for the first time in a while. Derrick Gordon had said after the Saint Joe's loss that there was a rift within the team on how they were playing. Well after some time off and a team sledding activity on the snow day on Tuesday they seem to have their mojo back. Gordon only had six points and three rebounds but what he contributes cannot be relayed on a boxscore.

For UMass this was a monster win at home that was much needed. Dayton now has lost two of their last three and will have to be worried about playing teams with the skilled big men that UMass has. The Minutemen improve to 11-9 (4-3) and travel to Saint Louis to take on the Bilikens on Saturday at 4.

Game Leaders

Points Cady Lalanne (18) Jordan Sibert (19)
Rebounds Maxie Esho (9) Dyshawn Pierre (13)
Assists Donte Clark (9) Dyshawn Pierre (7)
Blocks Cady Lalanne (2) Kendall Pollard (3)
Steals Donte Clark (3) Pollard, Sibert, and Scoochie Smith  (2)