Flyers men’s basketball close regular season with hard-fought 55-52 road win over Bonnies

Redshirt senior guard Ibi Watson led the Flyers in scoring during Monday night’s 55-52 win over St. Bonaventure, finishing with 14 points to go with 5 rebounds. Photo courtesy of Griffin Quinn, Flyer News.

Peter Burtnett
Sports Editor

The Dayton Flyers men’s basketball team closed the regular season with a hard-fought 55-52 road win over the Atlantic 10 regular season champion St. Bonaventure Bonnies in Olean, N.Y., Monday night.

The Flyers started the game with 3 made field goals on their first 4 shots of the game, and a pair of free throws by freshman forward R.J. Blakney – who made his first career start against the Bonnies – gave the Flyers an early 10-5 lead, which they held at the first media timeout with 15:51 remaining in the first half.

However, the Bonnies responded with a 7-0 run to grab a 12-10 lead, at the under-12 media timeout with 11:54 remaining in the half. 

After their hot start to the game (3-4 field goals), the Flyers missed eight of the next ten shots, and trailed 17-16 at the under-8 media timeout with 7:52 remaining in the first half.

A rush of 4 Flyers turnovers over the next three minutes led to a 9-2 run for the Bonnies, but the Flyers were able to stop the bleeding with a pair of baskets to cut the Bonnies’ lead to 26-22 with 3:15 left in the half.

Even with issues keeping possession (11 first-half turnovers) and from the free throw line (3-7), a floater by senior guard Jalen Crutcher with 3 seconds left in the first half – his first points of the game – sent the Flyers into halftime trailing just 27-26.

Like the start of the game, the Flyers had the upper hand to start the second half, making 3-6 field goals to fuel a 7-0 run to take the lead, 33-27, and force a Bonnies timeout just two-and-a-half minutes into the half.

The Flyers continued to slowly extend their lead, getting to double digits with a three from redshirt freshman forward Zimi Nwokeji with 13:38 remaining in the game, and the Flyers’ lead was at 47-35 with 11:13 left in the game.

The Bonnies slowly fought back, going on a 12-3 run over the next seven minutes, cutting the Flyers’ lead to just four before a lay-up by redshirt senior guard Ibi Watson gave the Flyers a 52-46 lead at the under-4 media timeout with 3:51 remaining. 

However, the initiation of the media timeout was a foul by Crutcher, his fifth of the game, and left the Flyers without their leading scorer for the final four minutes. The Bonnies split the pair of free throws and knocked down a three from the wing on their next possession to cut the Flyers’ lead to 52-50 with three minutes left.

After a layup from redshirt senior center Jordy Tshimanga, a jumper from the Bonnies and a free throw split for Watson, the Bonnies called timeout with possession of the ball down 55-52 with 1:02 remaining. 

The Bonnies weren’t able to capitalize, but neither were the Flyers on their possession, turning the ball over for the 21st time on a shot clock violation to give the Bonnies the ball down three with 10.1 seconds left. 

With a chance to tie the game, the Bonnies’ three-point attempt hit the front of the rim, and the Flyers overcame 21 turnovers to win the regular season finale 55-52 to finish the season 13-8 overall and 9-7 in Atlantic 10 play.

Leading scorer Watson (14 points) was the only Flyer to score double-digits, but all nine of the Flyers who took the court scored. The Flyers won the rebounding battle 36-32, and finished 45.5 percent from the field to just 30 percent by the Bonnies.

Next, the Flyers will play in the Atlantic 10 tournament second round Thursday at 3:30 p.m. against 10-seed Rhode Island at Siegel Center in Richmond, Va.

The Flyers won their first match-up against the Rams at UD Arena 67-56 on Jan. 30, but fell 91-89 in double overtime at Ryan Center in Kingston, R.I., on Feb. 16.

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