Watson’s scoring leads Flyers to 84-72 win over Rhode Island in A10 second round

Ibi Watson (left) led the Flyers with 25 points, and Jalen Crutcher finished with 14 points and 7 assists in the Flyers’ 84-72 win over Rhode Island Thursday. Photo courtesy of Griffin Quinn, Flyer News.

Peter Burtnett
Sports Editor

A scoring showcase from Ibi Watson led the Flyers to an 84-72 win over Rhode Island in the A-10 second round Thursday at the Siegel Center in Richmond, Va.

Slow starts for both offenses characterized the game early, with the Flyers’ first points of the game coming 65 seconds into the game on a good feed inside from senior guard Jalen Crutcher to redshirt senior center Jordy Tshimanga for an easy layup. Freshman guard R.J. Blakney, making his second career start, got a three to fall to give the Flyers an early 5-0 lead.

The Rams were held scoreless for the first four minutes of the game, but went on a 7-2 run to tie the game at 7-all at the under-16 media timeout with 14:42 remaining in the first half. 

Nearly three minutes elapsed before a jumper by Flyers freshman guard Koby Brea broke the deadlock, but the Rams quickly responded with a three to break their own scoring drought, and another three gave the Rams a 13-9 lead with 10:51 remaining in the half.

A pair of Crutcher free throws on the other side of the media timeout cut the deficit in half, and a deep three by redshirt senior guard Ibi Watson turned into a four-point play when he was fouled on the shot, giving Dayton a two-point lead. However, the Rams responded and took an 18-17 lead into the under-8 media timeout with 7:42 left in the first half.

The Rams extended the lead to three, but a trio of threes – one each from Crutcher, Watson and Blakney – was flourished with a ferocious dunk by Watson to give the Flyers a 30-26 lead with 2:31 remaining in the half. 

A quick 5-2 charge for the Rams was off-set by a circus possession for the Flyers. Tshimanga kept his dribble going while sitting on the ground, got up, and found Watson, who rolled his own ankle on a crossover move, but stayed with it to knock down the three and push the Flyers’ lead back up to four. 

A pair of free throws from freshman forward Mustapha Amzil was punctuated by a deep three at the top of the key from Crutcher with four seconds left in the half, and the Flyers took a 40-31 lead into halftime. Watson led the team with 14 points, but Crutcher was just as efficient, pouring in 12 points. 

Although the Flyers trailed in field goal percentage (44.8 to 40.6), they led three-point percentage by 11 percent (46.7 to 35.7) and sank 7 of 7 free throws, while the Rams were 0-2. The Flyers also held the rebounding advantage, 20-16, and went into the break with momentum on an 8-0 run. 

If not for Ibi Watson, the Flyers would have trailed by one at the under-16 media timeout. However, a pair of threes and a jumper by the Pickerington, Ohio, native helped the Flyers hold onto a 48-41 lead with 15:38 remaining in the second half.

The Rams continued to chip away, though, and a layup by Rams senior guard Fatts Russell (and-1 free throw missed) cut the Flyers lead to 52-50 with 13:20 remaining in the game. But Watson once again responded with a three, pushing his point total to 25 and giving the Flyers a 55-50 lead with 12:06 remaining in the game. 

The Flyers’ lead was cut to one at 56-55, but an and-1 layup from redshirt freshman forward Zimi Nwokeji pushed the lead back to four, and a Tshimanga layup made it six with 10 minutes to go, before Rams junior guard Allen Betrand went down in pain with a non-contract left leg injury.

Brea knocked down a three from the wing, and the Flyers’ 8-1 run gave them a 64-56 lead with 7:45 left in the game. He then knocked down another three, and Amzil hit a floater, extending the Flyers’ lead to 13. Rhode Island responded with a three, and called timeout down 71-61 with 5:11 remaining. 

The Flyers cruised through the final five minutes, and the Rams never got back within single digits. With a 84-72 win, the Flyers advance to the A10 quarterfinals, where they will face No. 2 VCU, who the Flyers lost to twice this season (66-43 in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 24 and 76-67 in Dayton on Feb. 9). 

In Thursday’s game, the Flyers were led by Watson – 25 points on 9-17 shooting and 6-11 from three – and Crutcher and Amzil, who both finished with 14 points each. Crutcher added 7 assists, and Tshimanga led the team with 7 rebounds. 

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