Senior Trey Landers (cover photo) had 18 points and 8 rebounds in the Flyers’ victory. Photo from a previous game courtesy of Griffin Quinn.
Sports Staff Writer
The Dayton men’s basketball team extended their winning streak to 11 games Saturday as they defeated the Fordham Rams 70-56 and notched win No. 20 of the season.
The Flyers had one of the nation’s longest winning streaks and a No. 7 ranking in the both the AP and Coaches’ polls going into the game. Strong efforts by senior guard Trey Landers (18 points and 8 rebounds) and redshirt sophomore forward Obi Toppin (18 points and 6 rebounds) led the way.
“I think our biggest thing is just knowing what we do,” Landers said. “Coach (Anthony Grant) emphasizes so much that we’re one of the top teams offensively in the country, so when we’re not getting rebounds and getting in transition it hurts us.”
The first points on the board were by Fordham freshman forward Joel Soriano, but the tone was set on the next play when Toppin slammed home a ferocious dunk to even the score. A Toppin 3-pointer gave the Flyers the lead, which they never relinquished the rest of the game.
At the first media timeout at the 13:51 mark, the Flyers were nursing a 7-4 lead, but sloppy play allowed the Rams to hang around early.
A Landers 3-pointer was followed by a solid defensive effort on the other end of the court to force a Fordham turnover. Senior guard Rodney Chatman – who finished with 10 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals – knocked down his own 3-pointer to push the Flyers lead to 13-4 heading into the second media timeout.
Chatman also made a few hustle plays that showed the effort that will be needed down the stretch for the Flyers to make a deep run in March.
“Stuff like that is contagious,” Chatman said. “You see other guys playing hard on a consistent basis, it wears off on everybody else. We’re not 20-2 for no reason, so something’s working.”
A steady flow of 3-pointers continually extended the Flyers’ lead throughout the first half, and a three by redshirt junior guard Jhery Matos followed by another from fellow redshirt junior guard Ibi Watson helped push the lead to 22-9 through the first 12 minutes of the game.
The Flyers battered the Rams inside throughout the game, scoring 28 points in the paint to Fordham’s 18. Redshirt junior forward Jordy Tshimanga was often double- or triple-teamed in the post, as a tie-up led to a jump ball before the third media timeout. A few minutes later, Tshimanga was fouled inside, after which some words were exchanged between both teams as they came together just outside the free-throw arc.
Through a couple of layups and free throws from Tshimanga and Landers, the Flyers pushed their advantage to 28-13 at the final media timeout of the first half at the 3:54 mark.
Rebounding was vastly improved on the offensive end by the Flyers, who were averaging just 8.43 offensive rebounds per game before tipoff. The Flyers finished with 9 offensive rebounds and 8 second-chance points – compared to 4 offensive rebounds and 2 second-chance points for Fordham – two of which came on an and-one lay-up by Toppin to give the Flyers a 19-point lead.
“I’m not really concerned about how many offensive rebounds we got,” Dayton head coach Anthony Grant said. “I want to make sure they don’t get a lot of second chance points, and I thought the other day we gave up too many opportunities at Duquesne… I thought we did a good job limiting (Fordham’s) second and third chances today, along with our first shot defense was pretty good.”
The Flyers and Rams exchanged baskets to close out the first half, as the Flyers led 36-17.
The first six minutes of the second half were back and forth, Dayton increasing their lead by two to take a 46-25 into the first media timeout of the second half.
Landers made one of two free throws, but any sense that the Flyers were putting the game away were put on hold when the Rams knocked down three 3-pointers in a row to cut the deficit to just 13 with 13:31 remaining in the game.
The Rams went 9-14 from 3-point range in the second half after shooting 1-9 in the first half, keeping the Rams in the fight.
“The coach in me still feels a certain way about them making nine out of 14 threes in the second half,” Grant said. “I think we have to be better. We have to continue to move the needle in terms of what we do in terms of being consistent in the two halves on the defensive side of the ball.”
Toppin and Landers combined for five points to increase the lead back up to 18 at the second media timeout of the second half.
Fordham sophomore guard Jalen Cobb was the main catalyst for keeping the Rams in the game, as he poured in 18 second half points. With 6:55 remaining in the game, the Flyers held steady with a 59-41 lead.
A 3-pointer by Cobb and senior guard Antwon Portley cut the deficit to 60-48 with 3:37 at the final media timeout. Although the Flyers never buried the Rams, the scoring and rebounding of Landers and Toppin led the way as the Flyers won 70-56.
“Overall we’ll go back, and we’ll look at it and there will be things we look at and say this was really good,” Grant said. “And there will be things we look at and say we need to improve and continue to get better.”
The Flyers improve to 20-2 and 9-0 in Atlantic 10 play, and will face Saint Louis next Saturday, Feb. 8 at UD Arena at 2 p.m. Dayton leads the all-time series against Fordham 32-5, and the Flyers’ 14-point win was the only match-up between the two teams this season.