Old Spice MVP Kevin Dillard Leads Flyers over Minnesota

By Juan Gallardo

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — Dayton junior point guard Kevin Dillard may have not been the most valuable player in the Old Spice Tournament at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, but he was the most valuable player in its final game; an 86-70 beating of a Minnesota team that was diminished by injury.

After picking up wins against Wake Forest and Fairfield in the earlier rounds of the tournament, Dayton was supposed to face a bigger challenge, literally, from the Golden Gophers, led by two future NBA players in center/forward Ralph Sampson III and power forward Trevor Mbakwe.

Sampson only played 10 minutes because of a previous ankle injury and Mbakwe, the team’s leading scorer and re-bounder, went down three minutes into the second half with an apparent knee injury and never returned to the game, leaving the Gophers with a much smaller and inexperienced lineup.

“Trevor is a tough guy, so when he is down there writhing in pain you know it’s serious,” said Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith of the injury.

With Mbakwe and Sampson gone, Dayton forward Josh Benson was able to dominate the paint, scoring 14 of his 16 points from inside and deflating the Gophers spirits with two back-to-back dunks shortly after Mbakwe left the game.

The injuries weren’t the only problem Minnesota had a problem with; ball possession and defending the three point shot is what eventually doomed them, as they committed 21 turnovers and allowed Dayton to shoot 44 percent from beyond the arch.

According to Dayton head coach Archie Miller, who is in his first year with the team, that is what allowed the Flyers to get back in the game after going down 23-12 in the first half.

“Our team is most dangerous when we do get stops and off of turnovers, that’s when we are cashing in. Once we were able to get some stops and some turnovers, in particular I thought Kevin made a couple of great kick out passes,” said Miller, praising his MVP, who finished the night with 19 points, 10 assists, seven steals, and three blocks. “I thought that’s what opened us up and gave us some confidence.”

The Flyers never gave back the lead once they claimed it, mostly because of Dillard’s nice passing and the shooting of senior forwards Chris Johnson and Luke Fabrizius, who combined to shoot seven of 12 from the three point line.

“Coach has a lot of confidence in us to take the shot and make the shot,” said Dillard. “Everybody on the wing can shoot. I just have to keep penetrating and trying to find them.”
Minnesota was able to get solid contributions from guards from Julian Welch and Austin Hollins, whose father Lionel played for Dayton, but it the end it wasn’t enough to overcome the injuries.

This was the third time the teams have played, with the Golden Gophers leading the series 2-1.

The 5-1 Flyers were able to hand Minnesota their first loss of the season and take on Buffalo next on Wednesday, Nov. 30. While the Golden Gophers, now 6-1, must rest and piece together a starting lineup for their Wednesday night matchup against Virginia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.