Dayton's Scoochie Smith (11) brings the ball upcourt in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Delaware State, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, in Dayton, Ohio. Delaware State's Kendal Williams approaches Smith.
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Matt Kavanaugh scored 11 points and No. 25 Dayton overcame a sluggish first half, poor free throw shooting and a late slump to defeat Delaware State 56-46 Wednesday night.
Dayton (7-1) finally found some rhythm in the slow-paced game with a 14-2 run that pushed its lead to 50-30 with 7:51 to play. Delaware State (2-6) responded with consecutive 3-pointers by Tyshawn Bell to spark a 9-0 run. The Hornets cut the lead to 54-46 with 1:32 left before Dayton finished it off.
Dayton (7-1) played its first game as a ranked team since 2009 and looked jet-lagged from its trip to the Maui Invitational last week. It was the Flyers’ first game back home since a third-place finish in Maui, and it was that tournament performance that elevated the Flyers into the Top 25. They defeated then-No. 11 Gonzaga and California and were a tip-in away from beating then-No. 18 Baylor.
Delaware State succeeded at slowing the game to a crawl compared to the pace Dayton is used to playing. The Hornets worked the shot clock to 20 seconds before attacking the defense. Most of their shots came with under 10 seconds left.
Dayton entered the game shooting 72.9 percent from the free throw line but went only 14 of 27.
The Hornets shot 31.6 percent from the field in the first half but trailed only 28-21 at halftime. Eight points and a pair of 3-pointers from Casey Walker kept them close.
Dayton jumped out to a 10-0 lead, with Kavanaugh running the floor for two layups to spark the run. Delaware State countered with a 10-2 spurt to cut Dayton’s advantage to 12-10 with 10:56 left in the half.
The Hornets’ 2-3 zone was difficult for Dayton to penetrate and shoot over throughout the half. The Flyers, who entered shooting 42.7 percent from 3-point range, missed all six attempts in the half. When the Flyers did get near the basket, the Hornets sent them to the foul line. It turned out to be a good strategy, as Dayton made only eight of 17 in the half.
Bell and Walker led Delaware State with 14 points each.
Delaware State’s two victories are over NCAA Division III schools. The Hornets were picked to finish seventh out of 13 teams in the MEAC preseason poll and did not have a player selected to the preseason all-conference team.