Roberto De La Rosa-Finch
Once again, a University of Massachusetts vs. Dayton men’s basketball game came down to the wire.
Dayton sophomore guard Jalen Crutcher sank a go-ahead three-pointer with 1:10 left in the second half to lead the Flyers (11-5, 3-0) to a 72-67 victory over UMass (7-9, 0-3) Sunday evening. Dayton’s winning streak has extended to six, and UMass has lost four straight.
With the game tied 67-67, Crutcher (19 pts, 4-5 3FG) came off of a screen from senior forward Josh Cunningham at the top of the arc and nailed the clutch jumper.
Dayton redshirt junior forward Ryan Mikesell forced UMass freshman forward Samba Diallo to take and miss a tough layup on the ensuing possession.
Dayton junior guard Trey Landers was then fouled and hit one of two free throws to put Dayton up, 71-67, and the game out of reach with 13 seconds left.
He was fouled again grabbing a rebound after UMass guard Luwane Pipkins missed a three on the following possession and made a free throw to completely seal the win.
Recent matchups between UMass and Dayton have been filled with drama, and Dayton getting the short end of the stick.
Dayton lost by a combined six points in their two games against UMass last year; one game went into double overtime. Crutcher faced a similar clutch situation in the double-overtime loss on Feb. 3, but his potential game-winning jumper in the second half fell short. This time around, his stroke was perfect.
“Really proud of our team effort tonight,” Dayton Coach Anthony Grant said postgame. “Jalen Crutcher made some big plays for us there.”
The score was tied three times in the game, but Dayton never relinquished the lead. The Flyers shot 50 percent from the the field and, a well-above-average, 55.6 percent from three, but UMass would not go away.
It surely was a game of runs, and Grant said the team knew the game would be a battle.
“(UMass) challenged our guys from a defensive standpoint,” Grant continued.
The Minutemen spent their time penetrating into the paint, grabbing boards against Cunningham and 6-foot-9 freshman forward Obi Toppin and feeding off of their leading-scorer, Pipkins.
UMass tallied up 30 points in the paint and outrebounded Dayton 37-26.
Pipkins, who finished with 19 points and eight rebounds, continuously beat his defender off the dribble, slicing to the basket to set up a mid-range shot or a pass to an open teammate beyond the arc.
Sophomore guard Carl Pierre and redshirt sophomore guard Keon Clergeot were the beneficiaries of Pipkins’s drives racking up a combined 26 points (6-13 3FG).
Nonetheless, Pipkins’s offensive prowess was diminished by the length of Dayton sophomore guard Jordan Davis.
“What we asked of (Davis) from a defense standpoint for 38 plus minutes tonight to be the primary guy (guarding Pipkins) whether it was the full-court or the half-court … and then to be able to go out and still be able to produce on the offensive end … that’s big time growth, so I’m really proud of him,” Grant said.
Apart from Crutcher’s late three, Dayton won the game thru turnovers and at the free throw line.
UMass committed 19 fouls and almost had as many turnovers as assists (12 assists, 11 TOs).
Dayton, ranked second in the nation in fewest fouls committed, only sent UMass to the line twice and posted a 2.57 assist to turnover ratio.
Davis had a team-high 21 points (6-8 3FG) and a steal
UMass fifth-year center Rashaan Holloway was a perfect 5-5 from the field (10 points)
This is only the second game this season in which Dayton was outrebounded and still won
UMass shot 25 percent from three in the first half then 53.8 percent in the second (10-25 final 3FG)
Toppin shot a season-low 14.3 percent from the floor (1-7) but dished out four assists
UMass had four players score in double-figures
Dayton is set to face two remaining schools this week and will travel to Richmond, Virginia to play the VCU Rams on Wednesday at 8 p.m.
UMass looks to get it’s first conference win and stop it’s losing streak at home against George Mason on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Photos courtesy of Roberto De La Rosa-Finch.