Rhode Is­land re­ju­ve­na­tion

Fly­ers find their fo­cus to bounce back from loss at Saint Louis.

Dayton Daily News - - SPORTS - By David Jablon­ski Staff Writer

A lot can change in a year. A lot can change in four days.

Fifty weeks af­ter los­ing by 25 to Rhode Is­land at the Ryan Cen­ter, the Day­ton Fly­ers won by 29, dom­i­nat­ing the de­fend­ing At­lantic 10 Con­fer­ence reg­u­lar-sea­son cham­pi­ons on Satur­day. Four days af­ter fall­ing be­hind by 20 in the first half at Saint Louis, the Fly­ers led by 20 in the first half against the Rams.

It’s hard to ex­plain. The ran­dom­ness of col­lege bas­ket­ball cer­tainly played a fac­tor. There’s no doubt the dis­ap­point­ment mo­ti­vated Day­ton, just as it mo­ti­vated Saint Louis, which had lost four straight games, ear­lier in the week.

“We just had to come back and gain fo­cus,” Day­ton for­ward Josh Cun­ning- ham said. “We went to Saint Louis and were kind of not our­selves. Over the few prac­tices we had be­fore this game, I felt we were very locked in. We came in with the mind­set that we’re not go­ing to let them out-tough us just be­cause they kind of play the same way Saint Louis did.”

Day­ton (16-8, 8-3) en­tered its off week alone in sec­ond place with the op­por­tu­nity to play the two teams ahead of it in the stand­ings, David­son and Vir

ginia Com­mon­wealth (both 17-6, 8-2) in their next two games. Here are five rea­sons they beat Rhode Is­land:

1. The shots fell: Day­ton opened its last two games against Duquesne and Saint Louis 0-for-9 and 0-for-10 from 3-point range. The Fly­ers missed their first at­tempt in this game, but then made their next three dur­ing a 27-7 run over the first 11 min­utes. They fin­ished 6 of 12 from 3-point range.

Day­ton led 41-27 at half­time af­ter trail­ing at half­time by a to­tal of 20 points in its last two games.

Day­ton point guard Jalen Crutcher said coach An­thony Grant’s mes­sage to the team in prac­tice af­ter the Saint Louis loss was, “We’ve got to stop wait­ing on what they’re go­ing to do. We’ve got to come out and be our­selves.”

2. The point guard ex­celled: With 20 points on 7-of-12 shoot­ing, Crutcher matched his sea­son high. He added four as­sists.

“I thought he re­ally con­trolled the game,” Grant said. “I thought he did a great job of be­ing able to at­tack their pres­sure and cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for him­self ei­ther through scor­ing or find­ing his team­mates. We did a good job mov­ing the ball, shar­ing it and mak­ing good de­ci­sions in terms of our shot se­lec­tion. Jalen, I thought, was the cat­a­lyst for that.”

3. The for­wards dom­i­nated: Obi Top­pin made 8 of 10 shots from the field and scored 19. Josh Cun­ning­ham added 13 points on 6-of-8 shoot­ing.

The big men were a big rea­son Day­ton shot 63.3 per­cent (31 of 49) from the field. That’s the sec­ond-best shoot­ing per­for­mance of the sea­son. The Fly­ers shot 68.5 per­cent against Detroit. Rhode Is­land had not al­lowed an op­po­nent to shoot bet­ter than 52.9 per­cent this sea­son.

Rhode Is­land coach David Cox called it an em­bar­rass­ing loss for his team on its home court.

“I want to apol­o­gize to our fans who came out to sup­port us to­day,” Cox said. “What a tremen­dous at­mos­phere. Ob­vi­ously, they showed up and we didn’t. I give credit to An­thony Grant and the Day­ton bas­ket­ball pro­gram for com­ing in here and play­ing a high-level game to­day.”

4. The de­fense worked: Crutcher said the game plan was to fo­cus on Rhode Is­land’s lead­ing scorer, Jeff Dowtin, and its top big man, Cyril Langevine.

Day­ton held Dowtin to seven points on 2-of-11 shoot­ing. He had scored in dou- ble fig­ures in ev­ery game this sea­son. Langevine scored 23 points on 9-of-16 shoot­ing.

Rhode Is­land’s shoot­ing strug­gles con­tin­ued. It made 3 of 19 3-point­ers. The Rams fell into a tie for last place in the coun­try in 3-point shoot­ing per­cent­age (25.8). Cox saw the of­fen­sive frus­tra­tion af­fect his team on the de­fen­sive end.

“We were bad on of­fense, ob­vi­ously, and poor on de­fense with re­gard to 1-on-1 de­fense for the most part,” he said. “Ev­ery­thing kind of steam­rolled to­day.”

5. The come­back stalled: Day­ton’s 20-point lead shrunk to 14 at half­time. The Rams closed the gap to 12 points early in the sec­ond half but got no closer. The Fly­ers led by 20 or more points for the last six min­utes and were con­tent to milk the clock in the fi­nal four min­utes.

“Bas­ket­ball is al­ways go­ing to be a game of runs,” Grant said, “and a 14-point lead at the half on the road, that’s not a com­fort­able lead in my opin­ion. The in­ten­sity, the ur­gency, needed to be there. They had a run, and we were able to an­swer that run and then have a run of our own that gave us a com­fort­able lead there.”

DAVID JABLON­SKI / STAFF

Jalen Crutcher drives to the bas­ket Satur­day at Rhode Is­land on the way to a 20-point ef­fort. “I thought he did a great job of be­ing able to at­tack their pres­sure and cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for him­self,” Fly­ers coach An­thony Grant said.

DAVID JABLON­SKI / STAFF

Ryan Mike­sell and Day­ton’s de­fense held Rhode Is­land’s lead­ing scorer, Jeff Dowtin, to just seven points on Satur­day in Kingston, R.I.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.