Men’s Basketball Update: Flyers Impress, Then Disappoint In Another Inconsistent Week

Caroline Flahive
Contributing Writer

All 13,173 fans at UD Arena were on their feet, holding their breath. Time expired and everyone let out a collective sigh as the Flyers escaped yet another conference loss. The Flyers were seconds away from their first three-game losing streak of the year, when Trey Landers and Jalen Crutcher delivered big shots to get the Flyers back to .500 on the season.

The sophomore-freshman duo kept the Flyers A-10 Tournament aspirations in reach, as they pushed the Flyers to a 65-64 victory over Davidson (10-8, 5-2). The freshman, Crutcher, delivered a wide-open three-pointer with 56 seconds left, while sophomore guard Trey Landers, who went 4-for-4 from the line, hitting two clutch free throws late to give Dayton the go-ahead lead with under thirty seconds to play.

“You said pressure. I don’t know what that is. I won’t say pressure,” Landers said, when asked about feeling pressure on his final free throws.

Tuesday’s victory against Davidson was only Dayton’s fourth conference victory of the season. The Flyers (10-11, 4-5), who have won back-to-back A-10 conference titles, have the most regular season conference wins since 2013 with 70.

But the Flyers are notdi the same squad as they were back in 2013, or better yet even last year. A new era of Dayton basketball has begun and midway through the season, the Flyers are still trying to find their rhythm.

“It was a game of runs like any game,” coach Anthony Grant said after the Davidson win. “Tonight we took a step with our maturity it terms of handling different adversity that came up in the course of the game and a lot of it from being up 10 to erasing that lead.”

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Landers, a graduate of Wayne High School in Huber Heights, continues his breakout year, after spending his freshman campaign behind the scenes to the likes of Scoochie Smith and Kyle Davis. He has scored in double figures in four of the last five games, including a 16-point performance against Davidson.

“I thought he battled all the way through, he made some big plays for us,” Grant said of Landers’ play against Davidson. “The two free-throws at the end, those were big. Those were grown man free throws.”
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Former Dayton Flyer, coach Anthony Grant is 10-11 in his first season at Dayton.

Kostas Antetokounmpo, a redshirt-freshman, continues to struggle with foul trouble and consistency, as he picked up two fouls within minutes of entering the Davidson game. It was far from the performance the Flyers need in order to make a run in the A-10, as he was held to zero points in only four minutes of action.

Despite inconsistency, Antetokounmpo has provided the blocking attack on defense with 21 blocks on the year. The duo of Antetokounmpo (6 foot 10) and true freshman Jordan Pierce (6 foot 11) could provide trouble for opponents under the rim, as the two age.

Crutcher, who hails from Memphis, Tennessee, has earned significant playing time all season, scoring in double-digits in three of the last four games. Crutcher is giving young life to a Flyer program that has not had a freshman standout in the past couple years, simply because of the dominating crop of upperclassmen.

Crutcher stepped into the spotlight on Tuesday night as he played a career-high 39 minutes and delivered one of the biggest shots in his career to send Dayton to victory. He has stepped up during conference play as he has averaged 11.8 points in A-10 matchups, which ranks third on the team.

“Jalen is one of those players, just watching him in high school he wants to take those shots,” Grant said in reference to Crutcher’s late three-pointer. “He’s a very confident kid in terms of his believing in his ability to make shots at crucial times.”
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After snapping a two-game losing streak with their victory against Davidson, the Flyers failed to carry any momentum into the weekend, dropping another A-10 matchup against Saint Louis (11-11, 4-4).

The Flyers lost to the Billikens on Saturday, 75-65, dropping them below .500 on the season and in conference play. The difference maker was the lack of production from the Flyers’ bench. They managed just five points while the Billikens’ extra men put up 21.

The Flyers have nine conference games remaining, before heading to Washington, D.C., for the A-10 Conference Championships. If UD wants any chance of getting back to March Madness, they would almost certainly need to win the A-10 Tournament. And to do that, they’ll need to find much more consistent play in the latter part of the season.

Photos Taken by Griffin Quinn/Staff Photographer