Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Sophomore guard Bones Hyland let a 3-pointer fly from the right wing and immediately started back peddling before the shot swished through the hoop in the first half. From there on, it seemed as if everything was going to fall for Hyland in the first period.
Hyland knocked down three 3-pointers as men’s basketball beat Dayton 73-68 at the Stuart C. Siegel Center on Friday afternoon in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinal.
The Wilmington, Delaware, native returned to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 20 with a foot sprain, causing him to miss two games. Coach Mike Rhoades said Hyland looked fresh as he logged 30 points and 10 rebounds to pace the black and gold.
“It was great energy,” Rhoades said. “It was great to have him back, and he gives us so much.”
Hyland said he wanted to lift the team’s spirit by returning to the court after losing the regular season finale at Davidson on Feb. 27.
“Just wanted me to get out there and do my best, honestly, and whatever I could do for my teammates to win,” Hyland said. “It just felt great being out there again.”
Sophomore forward Hason Ward added 10 points and five rebounds for VCU.
The Rams went on an 8-0 run early in the first half, taking a 10-point lead. The black and gold forced four turnovers in the first four minutes. They held the Flyers without a field goal for the stretch, missing their first five attempts.
VCU went on another 8-0 to extend its lead midway through the first half. The black and gold held Dayton without a point for just over two minutes during the stretch.
The game hit a lull soon after, as both teams didn’t score for close to three minutes. Hyland converted from long range to end the scoring drought.
Dayton found some life late in the first half, going on a 6-0 run to pull within seven.
Hyland didn’t let the halftime buzzer stop his heroics, nailing a jumper falling into the Dayton bench from the right corner as time expired. The Rams shot 57% in the first 20 minutes, including 44% from beyond the arc.
As the ball left his hand, Hyland knew it was “money,” he said.
“That loose ball came to me like it wanted me, I was like ‘alright, I’m going to throw it up there.’ And it’s money,” Hyland said. “My teammates came and celebrated with me, that moment was definitely priceless.”
The circus shot helped carry the momentum into the halftime break, Rhoades said.
“Bones can just make plays, and at times he can make some special plays,” Rhoades said. “It was a huge momentum play, taking it to the locker room and coming out to the second half with it.”
Hyland left the game at the under-12 media timeout and was tended to by athletic trainer Dennis Williams. He returned minutes later. Hyland said after the game that he’s good to go for the Rams’ semifinal on Saturday against the winner of George Mason and Davidson.
The Rams slowly built their lead in the second half, leading by as many as 18.
The Flyers used a 9-0 run late in the second half to pull within six of the Rams. Dayton held the Rams without a point for just under two and a half minutes.
Dayton threatened, but the Rams were able to put the Flyers away behind 5-of-6 shooting from the free-throw line to close the game.
Junior forward Vince Williams left the game with back spasms, Rhoades said. Williams’ status for the semifinals on Saturday remains unclear.
The Rams will play the winner of George Mason and Davidson on Saturday in the A-10 semifinal at 9 p.m. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.