In just his second season, redshirt sophomore forward Obi Toppin (cover photo) has scored 1,000 career points. Photo taken by Griffin Quinn.
Sports Staff Writer
No. 5 (25-2, 14-0 in the A10) Dayton men’s basketball handled business at home Saturday afternoon, beating Duquesne (18-8) 80-70. Redshirt sophomore Obi Toppin headlined the day.
Coming into the game, Toppin was 21 points shy of entering Dayton’s 1000 points club. He was able to seal his spot in the Flyer history books after putting up 28 points to become the 50th inductee into the club. He joins teammate junior guard Jalen Crutcher in the club, who hit 1000 earlier this year also against Duquesne.
Toppin entered the club in the most Obi-esque way possible – by throwing down a huge dunk on an assist from Crutcher.
“That’s my roommate. He’s always going to find the open person, it wasn’t a coincidence that he found me,” Toppin said.
Toppin finished with 28 points, shooting 11-16 from the field, 3-5 from behind the 3-point line.
Although Toppin led all scorers with 16 points in the first half, the rest of the team struggled from the field. Excluding Topping, UD went 8-18, 0-7 on threes. They were, however, able to keep the score within one possession going into halftime.
After a back-and-forth first half, Dayton found themselves down by two heading into the locker room.
“To put it mildly, a tale of two halves,” head coach Anthony Grant said. “The first half, we were out of character. We have to be accountable for how we played. We can either wallow in pity, or we can go out and choose to play in character and do what we are supposed to do.”
Crutcher, a non-factor heading into the break with zero points, ended the day with 17 points.
“He’s a really good player,” Grant said with a grin. “We want the ball in [Crutcher’s] hands, and he makes great decisions.”
The point guard, who this year has established himself as a threat to pass or score – along with his solid 17-point second half, has dished out five assists.
A momentum-swinging moment came in the second half when senior guard Trey Landers tipped in a Toppin miss, then came down the next possession to grab another offensive board. He kicked that one out to Crutcher for a three.
Every time Landers would pull down another offensive rebound, the arena would erupt. Landers is often a crowd favorite for his commitment to the team, which is visible every time he is diving on the floor for a loose ball. Landers ended the game with 12 points and 11 rebounds, a double-double.
The apex of Dayton’s second half run came when Crutcher and redshirt junior guard Rodney Chatman combined for back-to-back threes. After the second three, Dayton forced a turnover on the other end and Coach Grant’s emotion was pouring out on the bench.
Grant’s passion during the run encapsulated everything that was going on inside of UD Arena at the time — the team was playing with unbelievable intensity, the fans were going insane and the tides were turning in the direction of the Flyers.
In the second half, Dayton went on a run that would help seal their victory. Their largest lead was 17 with 8:55 left to play.
Not only did Toppin score his 1000th career point today, but he flushed home some absurd dunks while doing so. This included a windmill in the middle of the lane and a reverse alley-oop from graduate forward Ryan Mikesell.
“They were just regular dunks, you know,” Toppin said, while trying to hold back a smile.
Toppin’s individual success is one thing, but the unselfish nature of the team behind him is telling of the type of culture Coach Grant is in the process of building at UD.
“That’s really the identity of this team. I think personally, even if [Toppin] wasn’t doing what he’s doing, his teammates would still tell you he’s a great guy. They get along on and off the floor, they respect each other, and they all have a common goal,” Grant said.
The team’s comradery was fully visible after the game, when they all came together after the win. They gathered around Toppin and Grant for a picture with Toppin’s 1000 point game-ball
“All the credit goes to my teammates, man,” Toppin said to deflect praise after the game. “Without them I wouldn’t be able to accomplish this. We have a really good system and today it was just, I guess, my day.”
This could be a marquee game in Toppin’s campaign for national player of the year. He, along with the rest of the team, are undoubtedly looking to continue a hot run of form for the rest of the season.
With the conference win over Duquesne, Dayton improves to 25-2 overall, 14-0 in conference. Next up, they will head on the road to George Mason on Tuesday night.