Redshirt junior guard Rodney Chatman was one of six Flyers scoring in double-digits as the Flyers blew out Massachusetts. Photo courtesy of Griffin Quinn.
Sports Staff Writer
Obi Toppin was leading the way on both sides of the court before an ankle injury as the Dayton Flyers continued their winning streak with an 88-63 win over Massachusetts on Saturday.
Toppin put together an excellent all-around performance with 16 points, four steals, three rebounds and two assists, but suffered a lower leg injury at half-court early in the second half. In his absence, Ryan Mikesell stepped up with 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Dear, 8-pound, 6-ounce, newborn infant Jesus, don't even know a word yet, just a little infant and so cuddly, but still omnipotent.
We just ask to PLEASE make sure Obi Toppin isn’t seriously injured. pic.twitter.com/urk4uz4xyp
— Barstool Flyers ✈️ (@BarstoolFlyers) January 11, 2020
From the tip-off, which was won by the Flyers, the full capacity crowd enjoyed a game where the Flyers had complete control. A Rodney Chatman steal and layup started the scoring and was followed by stifling defense and consistent scoring.
With 14:45 remaining in the first half, the Flyers held a 14-2 lead and a hold on the game, forcing four turnovers by the Minutemen and finding clear lanes to the basket on almost every possession.
The theme of the game continued over the next four minutes before the next Massachusetts timeout. A lob from Jalen Crutcher to Toppin preceded the timeout, which was followed by a true effort play by Chatman.
Chatman knocked down a pass, missed a contested layup but followed with a put-back layup to give the Flyers a 25-7 lead. Throughout the remainder of the game, Chatman (and Toppin) proved to be a menace on the defensive side of the ball.
“The tone was set defensively in the first half,” Dayton head coach Anthony Grant said. “Defensively, our guys did a great job of making it difficult, making (UMass) uncomfortable, which allowed us to really get out in transition and build a lead.”
Twelve first half turnovers and poor defense were the root of the Minutemen’s inability to get anything going. At the under eight media timeout the Minutemen were already at 10 turnovers and even a three-pointer after a Toppin windmill breakaway dunk was not enough to quiet the Dayton crowd.
Toppin found Trey Landers with a layup lob, and at the 3:20 mark the Flyers were still in complete control. Toppin dominated play in the post and had 14 points as the Flyers held a 39-17 lead.
By the end of the first half, all five Dayton starters had scored at least six points (along with five from Ibi Watson) and stormed into halftime with a 26-point advantage after a wide-open Jalen Crutcher swished a buzzer beater three-pointer from the corner sent Flyer faithful into a frenzy.
At halftime, with the Flyers firmly in control, three important figures in Flyers sports history were recognized for their achievements: women’s basketball players Kristin Daugherty Ronai, former AD Tim Wabler and three-time men’s basketball MVP Chris Wright.
The first 4:46 of the second half started well enough for the Flyers, as they held a 56-31 lead and looked to be ready to cruise through the final 15 minutes to a victory.
However, after a collision at half-court between Toppin and a Minutemen player, an instant hush fell over the crowd as Obi laid on the half-court logo in visible pain. He was able to walk off the court on his own power but limped straight to the locker room. Several minutes later he came back from the locker room with a large boot on his left leg.
Even without their star player, the second half was mainly smooth sailing for the Flyers. A balanced offensive attack (six different Dayton players scored at least four points in the final 20 minutes) was enough to hold off a 41-point UMass second half led by Tre Mitchell, who scored 10 points in the second half (16 total points).
Ryan Mikesell led the second half charge with seven points – finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds, a career high – and was complimented by plenty of help. With Toppin out, Watson, Jordy Tshimanga and Dwayne Cohill combined for 21 points off the bench in the second half (Watson – 11, Tshimanga – six, Cohill – four).
By the end of the game, each of the five starters had double-digit point totals, and Watson’s 11 off the bench made it six Flyers in double-digits.
“I thought it was a good effort by everybody,” Grant said. “I think we can continue to get better as a team. Some things offensively, we can do better, but defensively is where I’m really on these guys to try to move the needle. The focus coming into today, I think the guys did a really good job locking into that and that was good to see.”
The Flyers improve to 14-2 overall and 3-0 in Atlantic 10 play with the 88-63 win over the Minutemen. Their next game is against VCU, who lost to Rhode Island at home on Saturday. Mikesell said they must have a “next man up mentality” if they play without Toppin.