Cover photo – UD men’s basketball earned a narrow victory over Indiana State Saturday in the first game of the regular season. Courtesy of Atticus Hughes
It wasn’t as convincing as they may have hoped, but in the newly renovated arena, Dayton’s men’s basketball team beat Indiana State University 86-81 on opening night Saturday.
“This is the beginning of a brand new season for us,” head coach Anthony Grant said. “I know our guys were excited to get out there and play.”
Despite the fancy stadium updates and brand new on-court graphic introduction, the start of the game wasn’t necessarily glamorous. The Flyers struggled to score early. Redshirt sophomore forward Obi Toppin was the man getting all the buzz for the Flyers in the preseason, and he was the bright spot to a slow start.
“I was proud of our guys that they understood that [Obi] had an advantage,” Grant said. “We were able to exploit that a little bit, and obviously it paid dividends for us.”
Toppin scored six of the Flyers first eight points on his way to a game-high 29. The real magic started when junior guard Jalen Crutcher, the other Dayton player named preseason all A10 along with Toppin, started linking up in the pick-and-roll.
“Jalen’s like my twin,” Toppin said. “We have that mindset where we can just look at each other and tell what we’re saying to each other.”
The chemistry definitely showed, as the Crutcher to Toppin connection led to two big dunks in the first half. Crutcher finished with a game high six assists.
The main factor that slowed down the game in the first half was fouling, and this is also what was keeping the Sycamores in the game. Indiana State finished the half with 16 free-throw shots, compared to Dayton’s six.
“Tonight felt long game,” Crutcher said. “There a lot of calls, that’s why I think it felt so long.”
Early in the second half, Dayton rattled off an 8-0 run giving the Flyers a 12-point lead. The run was capped off by a huge step-back three from redshirt junior Rodney Chatman, who finished with three makes from behind the arc in his Flyer debut.
While the Flyers held the lead throughout the rest of the game, Indiana State certainly didn’t go down without a fight. Down the stretch, the Sycamores were making shot after shot to keep the game within reach.
“You have to give Indiana State credit, they made some plays tonight,” Grant said. “They were able to take advantage of some things that we have to get better at. My interest is using this as a teaching point for our team.”
Despite Indiana State’s peskiness in crunch time, senior guard Trey Landers was able to close the game out with two free throws, giving the Flyers a win on opening night.
“We’re happy to be able to get the win,” Grant said. “As a coach you always like it when you can find ways to win games like this.”
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