By PAUL GOTHAM
Two games three months apart and the progress of a player.
When Dayton’s Xeyrius Williams rose up for his second 3-pointer in 12 seconds last Friday at Rhode Island, he not only clinched the Flyers fourth straight victory, the sophomore forward showed the value of opportunity.
“Xeyrius has made a heckuva charge here for our team,” Dayton head coach Archie Miller said during the weekly Atlantic 10 tele-conference. “He didn’t have very much confidence at the beginning of the season. He was kinda trying to find his way.”
Williams drilled those back-to-back treys in the final 22 seconds of UD’s come-from-behind 75-74 victory over the Rams.
“Xeyrius is a great kid,” Miller stated. “He works as hard as anyone.”
Williams averages 7.8 points per game on the season. That number has increased to 8.3 in conference play including back-to-back double-digit performances last week when he connected on 9 of 12 shots for the week. He also grabbed 12 rebounds while collecting two blocks and two steals.
“Playing tough, being able to rebound, blocking a shot, getting an offensive stick-back. He’s given us energy plays countless times in big games when we needed him,” Miller noted.
His 3-point percentage (42.6 – 26 of 61) would place him in the top 25 nationally if he had enough attempts.
“He’s made big plays for us because he’s got a great motor,” Miller added. “He’s always been able to shoot the ball, and I think the great thing about him now is he’s really establishing when he’s on the floor that he can stretch the floor for us.”
All this for a player who managed two points per while logging less than 10 minutes a contest a year ago. He started this season scoring a total of two points in UD’s first three games. Injuries to Josh Cunningham and Kendall Pollard forced him into the lineup.
Williams had a chance to deliver in the closing seconds of Dayton’s loss to Saint Mary’s. Youthful enthusiasm took precedence, and he was called for an offensive foul with 15 seconds remaining. Instead of knotting the game at 59, he turned the ball over to the Gaels in a 61-57 loss.
That was November 19th.
Five days later, he netted a then-career high 15 points on five of nine shooting in a loss to Nebraska in the DIRECTTV Wooden Legacy played at Anaheim, California. He followed the next day with 14 points. He has scored 10.3 points over his last 18 games including those during the Thanksgiving weekend.
“Xeyrius was one of the few bright spots in Anaheim that we said he’s got a chance. He can help us,” Miller continued. “He’s been pretty consistent the whole way through.
“He was thrusted in there and with minutes, as most guys do, they take advantage or they don’t advantage of opportunity.”
Dayton (19-5/10-2 A10) travels to play at Saint Louis (9-16/4-8) Tuesday night. Williams scored five on 1-of-3 shooting when the Flyers beat SLU, 67-46 on January 22nd – a game that UD led by 28 with 11 minutes remaining.
“He’s obviously getting some good playing time with some guys out,” Saint Louis coach Travis Ford said. “He’s a four-man who can stretch the defense because he can shoot it and drive it. He’s very versatile.”
CBS Sports Network will televise the 8 pm tipoff.
“He’s got an unbelievable work ethic,” Miller said. “If he stays with it, he’s got big days ahead of him.”