DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Charles Cooke had 19 points and Dayton shrugged off its second-lowest first-half total of the season to beat Vanderbilt 68-63 on Wednesday night before 12,828 fans.
The Flyers (8-3) scored 21 points in the first half but more than doubled that in the first 11:25 of the second half, surging ahead 43-36 and never relinquishing control. Dayton had 17 points in the first half of a loss to Northwestern.
“The only motivation you really need is when you get stomped into the mud, which we did (at Northwestern). We were very motivated in practice. I thought our guys played more freely in practice, and we tried to play more freely tonight, and we got some good results,” Flyers coach Archie Miller said.
Kendall Pollard added 13 points and Ryan Mikesell contributed a season-high-tying 12 points and a career-best 11 rebounds, his first career double-double. All his scoring and six of his rebounds came in the second half.
Matthew Fisher-Davis paced Vanderbilt (6-6) with a career-high 25 points behind 5-for-9 shooting from 3-point range. The Commodores twice clawed within four points in the last 28 seconds but were unable to take the lead.
A more fluid offense and better shooting helped propel Dayton after halftime. The Flyers made four of their first seven attempts from long range after the break — two by Kyle Davis and two by Mikesell — and stretched their lead to 10 points.
Dayton, which converted 14 field goals on 51.9 percent shooting in the second half, vaulted ahead by 11 points with 2:33 left.
“The first half, we weren’t hitting shots, really,” Mikesell said. “We were playing really good defense. They didn’t shoot a very good percentage in the first half. At the end they started to hit a bunch of 3s, but overall we played really good defense and in the second half we started to make our open shots.”
The Commodores missed seven of their first eight shots and initially struggled from the perimeter, which has been one of their strengths.
Payton Willis’ buzzer beater ensured Vanderbilt’s 23-21 halftime edge. Dayton roared back soon after, reeling off eight straight points in a sequence that energized the home crowd and set the tone for the victory.
“I thought their run to start the second half really hurt us, and their penetration,” Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said. “They were able to get the ball to deep sides on the floor, which really collapsed our defense.”
Despite the loss, the Commodores’ second in three games, Drew said the team has made strides in the last two weeks. Against Dayton, Vanderbilt won the rebounding battle 44-38 and had seven blocks while going 8 for 8 from the free-throw line.
“If we can take more steps like this forward, I’m encouraged for conference season,” Drew said.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores, ranked 83rd in the latest NCAA RPI, lost to a trio of well-regarded teams — No. 13 Butler, Minnesota and Middle Tennessee — in the three weeks preceding Wednesday’s outing against Dayton. Vanderbilt surrendered 21 points off 13 turnovers in the loss to the Flyers.
Dayton: The Flyers avoided their first consecutive regular-season losses since 2011-12, Archie Miller’s first season as Dayton head coach. Dayton had 17 assists on 23 field goals. Scoochie Smith needs just six points to reach the 1,000-point career milestone.
Vanderbilt opens Southeastern Conference play at LSU on Dec. 29 and returns home to host Auburn on Jan. 4.
Dayton has just one day’s rest before hosting VMI on Friday. The Flyers host La Salle in an Atlantic 10 opener Dec. 30.
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