Flyers men’s basketball to open season against Eastern Illinois

Senior guard Jalen Crutcher will lead the Flyers into their first game of the 2020-21 season against Eastern Illinois Tuesday night. Photo courtesy of Griffin Quinn, Flyer News.

Peter Burtnett
Sports Editor

For the third time this season, the University of Dayton men’s basketball team has an opponent scheduled for Dec. 1, this time against Eastern Illinois at 7 p.m. at UD Arena.

After being forced to cancel their game against Bellarmine and Alcorn State for Dec. 1 due to positive COVID-19 cases in those programs, the Flyers will now face the Panthers, who already have two games played.

While the Flyers will be playing their first game of the season, without any exhibition games (Nov. 28 against Cedarville cancelled Friday), the Panthers come in off of losses to No. 7 Wisconsin (77-67) and Marquette (75-50).

Last year, EIU finished 17-15 (9-9 in Ohio Valley Conference), losing in the OVC quarterfinals and missing out on any post-season play.

The Panthers bring back eight seniors, with guard Josiah Wallace leading the way in the first two games of 2020-21, averaging 18.5 points, 2 assists, and 4 rebounds per game in 62 minutes played.

Senior guard George Dixon has been the leading rebounder for the Panthers through two games, averaging 7.5 rebounds per game. The team has shot just 30.7 percent from the field, but 30.2 percent from three-point range. The Panthers have also made 26 of 33 free throws (78.8 percent).

Meanwhile, the Flyers face their first game since a March 7 win against George Washington, which extended the Flyers nation-best winning streak to 20 games and capping off an 29-2 season with an 18-0 record in the Atlantic 10.

The Flyers return senior guard Jalen Crutcher, who averaged 15.1 points, 4.9 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game in a team-high 1010 minutes played.

Although they lose National Player of the Year Obi Toppin and leading senior glue guys Trey Landers and Ryan Mikesell, the Flyers are still poised to contend at the top of the A10 in 2020-21.

Guards Ibi Watson and Rodney Chatman join Crutcher in the backcourt, and bring back a combined 17.8 points, 5.1 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game between the two of them.

Forwards Jordy Tshimanga (fifth-year senior) and Chase Johnson (redshirt junior) will likely make up the Flyers frontcourt.

Off the bench, the Flyers will rely on a lot of youth, with true freshmen Koby Brea, Luke Frazier, and R.J. Blakney expected to make immediate contributions in the backcourt, and redshirt freshmen Zimi Nwokeji and Moulaye Sissoko expected to back-up Tshimanga and Johnson.

With the game against Eastern Illinois set to begin at 7 p.m. and televised on ESPN+ (Mikesell expected to join broadcast crew), the Flyers have just over 24 hours to prepare for their first opponent of the 2020-21 season.

Although capacity will be limited to 300 fans, the Flyers fans will finally get to see their Flyers back on the court for the first time in almost nine months.

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