Flyers charge ahead after halftime, coast to 72-63 win

Seniors Ibi Watson and Jalen Crutcher once again led the Flyers in scoring en route to a 72-63 win over Duquesne Wednesday night. Photo courtesy of Griffin Quinn, Flyer News.

Peter Burtnett
Sports Editor

After a back-and-forth run to close the first half, the University of Dayton men’s basketball team rode a 15-1 second half run to a 72-63 win over Duquesne Wednesday night, keeping the Dukes at arm’s length down the stretch.

After the game, head coach Anthony Grant said it was nice to finally not have a game come down to the final seconds.

“I’m happy we didn’t have to go down to the last couple of seconds of the game, like most of them have been,” Grant said. “So glad to get at least a couple-possession win there.”

The Flyers experienced difficulties on the offensive end early, scoring just five points in the first few minutes of the game. Dukes senior forward Marcus Weathers was a menace for the Flyers’ defense, scoring the first 10 points for Duquesne, who held a 10-5 lead at the first media timeout with 15:38 remaining in the first half.

Grant told his team to “stay the course” after Weathers’ 10-0 solo run.

Turnovers, which have persisted for the Flyers this season, allowed the Dukes’ lead to grow as much as seven, but an NBA-distance three from redshirt senior guard Jalen Crutcher cut the Dukes’ lead to 16-12 with 11:26 left in the half.

A three from redshirt senior guard Ibi Watson cut the deficit to one, and after the Dukes got two points back, a pair of lay-ups by Crutcher gave the Flyers their first lead of the game since a dunk by redshirt senior center Jordy Tshimanga started the scoring.

First, Crutcher tried breaking down his defender with crossovers and behind-the-back dribbles at the top of the key, but was forced to fight his way toward the basket, getting just past his defender for a tough driving lay-up.

On the next Flyers possession, Crutcher had to adjust in the air as he drove toward the basket, getting the lay-up to go to give the Flyers a 19-18 lead with 9:47 left in the half. 

By the next media timeout with 7:36 left, the Dukes had grabbed the lead back at 22-20. During this stretch of play, freshman forward R.J. Blakney got his first action in four games for 2 minutes after missing time with an injury. 

A corner three by Amzil gave the Flyers a 23-22 lead, and the rest of the first half was back and forth, with seven lead changes or ties after the Amzil three.

The Flyers finished the half cold from the field, going 4:54 without a made field goal. But four free throws from Amzil, first fouled on a three-point attempt and then a lay-up attempt (made the first three, split the pair), helped the Flyers take a 31-28 lead.

That lead would get cut to 33-31, but a three from Duquesne graduate senior guard Ryan Murphy with five seconds left gave the Dukes a 34-33 halftime lead.

Crutcher led the Flyers with 14 points, and Amzil and Watson added 9 and 6. After a hot start by Weathers, the Flyers defense allowed him to score just 2 points after his 10-point outburst to start the game. 

Like the scoreline, turnovers (6 for UD, 5 for Duquesne) and field goal percentage (UD: 44, Duquesne: 48) were well-contested and left the game very much up for grabs heading into the second half.

If the slow finish to the first half was one way of playing, the Flyers did the exact opposite to start the second, making 4/7 field goals (3/4 from three, 2 from junior transfer Elijah Weaver) to take a 44-36 lead with 15:40 left in the game.

Weaver, who finished with a game-high 6 assists, said it feels great to have so many weapons around him to dish the ball to.

“That’s my favorite part of the game, getting guys involved,” Weaver said. “So when you have a lot of weapons around, no matter what the play call is you can always find find somebody to score or find somebody to make a play.”

Grant was quick to praise Weaver after the game, saying he really likes what Weaver has brought to the Flyers.

“He’s a very versatile player,” Grant said. “He can play with the ball in his hands, is good off the ball, he brings good size, good speed, a great skill level…  I think, as he gets more comfortable with the system, more comfortable with his role, more comfortable with his teammates, I think he can be a big part of what we’re doing.”

The Flyers continued to slowly extend their lead in the second half, leading 49-40 at the next media timeout with 11:52 remaining. Just after the break, three free throws from Watson extended the lead to 52-40.

Three more points came on a three from the top of the key by redshirt freshman forward Zimi Nwokeji, and by the next media timeout, the Flyers lead had grown to 61-45 with 7:33 left in the game. 

Although the offensive boom creates more wide eyes and fills the stat sheet, Grant said the defense stepped up in the second half.

“Our defense really open things up for us,” Grant said. “I thought the guys did a really good job of getting stops and using that to create transition opportunities.

The rest of the game went in favor of the Flyers, with the Dukes never getting closer than 8 points. Crutcher and Watson combined for 37 points, and the Flyers came away with their third win in Atlantic 10 play, 72-63 over the Dukes.

Shooting 22/51 on field goals (43.1 percent), 10/24 from three (41.7 percent) and 18/23 from the free throw line (78.3 percent), the Flyers were able to best Duquesne’s shooting by a comfortable margin (40/17.6/47.1).

The Flyers are now 7-3 overall and 3-2 in A10 play, and will face George Washington at George Mason’s arena Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

Grant said the decision was made to “keep our guys as safe as possible” after the Capitol riots that happened last Wednesday.