Flyers men’s basketball falls in conference opener to La Salle

With an unfamiliar lineup, the final game of the 2020 calendar year resulted in an at-home loss for the Flyers. Photo courtesy of Griffin Quinn, Flyer News.

Luc Almeda
Sports Staff Writer

Dayton lost their conference opener to La Salle on Wednesday night, 67-65. The Flyers fell short via a deep-two dagger with 2.5 remaining on the game clock. Finnish freshman and 2020 recruit Mustapha Amzil put up a team high 22 points and 7 rebounds, but could not help Dayton seal a victory in his first night on the UD Arena floor.

“I’m thankful I was able to play, but I’m not happy because we lost,” Amzil said. He will be a major addition to the Flyers, and a much needed asset with Chase Johnson announcing that he is leaving the program.

Johnson announced via his Instagram before the game that he would be stepping away from basketball to focus on his health and education. Last year, Johnson took a medical leave of absence with post-concussion stress syndrome.

His 12.2 ppg and 6 rpg will be sorely missed as the Flyers enter their tough slate of conference games.

Although the team had an entirely different makeup, they were able to mesh well enough to be in the game until the final buzzer. Dayton actually led by as much as 14 points in the first half, but could not hold it together to see the game out.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a new team, we’re all one team,” said Jalen Crutcher. Crutcher finished with 19 points, but only shot the ball 10 times. He also contributed just two assists, a far cry from his season average of 5.8 apg. 

“We didn’t play together as a team as they were coming back. We tried to go on our own,” Crutcher said. No other player besides Crutcher and Amzil had more than 10 points on the night.

Head coach Anthony Grant reiterated Crutcher’s call for togetherness, requesting a sense of accountability from his players.

“They beat us to 50-50 balls, the numbers speak for themselves,” Grant said after the defeat. “We gotta learn from it. What I saw live will show up on film.” The head coach understands that the team was working with a different rotation than normal, but doesn’t think that contributed to the loss. 

“The guys we had tonight were more than capable of [winning], but we didn’t get it done,” Grant said. “The urgency from a scouting point, from an execution point, we did not have. How do we respond. Do we point fingers, or do we hold ourselves accountable.” 

R.J. Blankney and Elijah Weaver also missed tonight’s game due to injuries suffered during practice this week. 

The Flyer defeat was a significant victory for La Salle. It was their first win in UD Arena since 1999, over two decades. Sherif Kenney was their high scorer with 14 points, but forward Clifton Moore was their hero in the end. His shot-clock beating dagger put the Explorers up by two was enough to edge La Salle past Dayton.

UD Arena was far from spilling with fans like it would be during a customary home game, utterly changing the tone of what would normally be a hostile environment for any team on the road. 

Dayton will take on George Mason at home on Saturday to try to bounce back from their opening loss in conference play. The Flyers will do all they can to open 2021 with a victory.

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