Roberto De La Rosa-Finch
Senior forward Josh Cunningham scored his 1,000th career point while putting up 25 points and 10 rebounds as Dayton defeated Richmond, 72-48, in its conference home opener Sunday afternoon.
Cunningham, who etched his first double-double of the season, claimed he had no idea he was close to reaching the milestone.
“I had no clue,” Cunningham honestly laughed postgame. “It was kind of shocking when (the PA announcer) said it. I was kind of like ‘Oh.’ It was definitely great to be able do it at home in front of the home crowd, do it with my teammates, my brothers.”
He said that he just focuses on going out there and playing and having fun. With that mentality, Cunningham helped Dayton (9-5) extend its winning streak to four and improve to 8-1 at home.
Richmond (6-7) was held to its lowest scoring output this season and haven’t beaten the Flyers since 2014.
Richmond sophomore guard Jacob Gilyard had a team-high 24 points with all of them coming from behind the arc (8-17 FG). He tied a school record with eight three-pointers made in a game.
The Spiders’ leading scorer and rebounder coming in, redshirt sophomore Grant Golden (19.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG), was held to four points (2-7) and three rebounds.
“For (Golden) to have the night that he had, it was big for us,” Cunningham said. “Just because we know what he can do and how he can change the game.”
Dayton stuck with a “funky” zone, as Cunningham called it, for the majority of the game forcing Richmond to move the ball out of Golden’s hands, swing the ball around the perimeter and chuck up threes.
Gilyard was able to knock some down, but his fellow Spiders couldn’t follow in his crawl — the rest of the Richmond squad shot 3 of 22 from three.
With longer forwards and a shaken-up Golden, Dayton fed their big men and dominated down low. The Flyers scored 54 points in the paint, and redshirt freshman forward Obi Toppin scored 16 and grabbed nine boards.
Toppin, who is second in the country in field goal percentage at 73.3 percent, also slammed home three dunks. When asked at the end of a postgame interview if reporters have asked him about anything other than dunks this season, he chuckled off to the locker room.
Richmond could not find its offense other than thru Gilyard; no other player scored above eight points.
“Eleven threes is a lot in the game,” Dayton Coach Anthony Grant said postgame. “But I thought, for the most part, we were able to control the tempo from a defensive standpoint which led to us being able to find a rhythm offensively.”
The Spiders came in attempting 23 three-pointers per game. The Flyers’ zone forced them to take 38 and miss a bunch.
Junior guard, and team-leader in rebounding, Trey Landers posted 10 rebounds and was one point shy of a double-double (nine points, 3-5 FG).
Former Dayton center Steve McElvene was honored at halftime. McElvene, aka “Big Steve,” died two months after Dayton’s 2016 season from an undiagnosed heart condition, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Richmond came in averaging 10.8 turnovers per game (tied for 21st in the country). They gave up 13 and committed 17 fouls.
Dayton honored its 10 millionth fan, Janis Gudorf, at halftime as well. She came with her husband and family and has been attending Dayton games for years.
Richmond shot 29.5 percent from the floor.
The Flyers outrebounded Richmond +11.
Dayton will travel to George Washington on Wednesday. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Richmond is set to host their conference home opener Wednesday against Rhode Island. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m.