The Dayton Flyers led 45-17 at halftime…then had to hold on for dear life to beat back Presbyterian for a Saturday win at UD Arena.
That’s the nickname of the Presbyterian College basketball, which actually doesn’t wear blue stockings on the floor and prefers to be referred to as PC.
The PC Blue Hose were the opponent for the University of Dayton Flyers Saturday afternoon in UD Arena and for 20 minutes it looked as if the Blue Hose were doing an impression of The Barefoot Contessa.
When the halftime horn sounded the Flyers were in front, 45-17. For the mathematically-challenged, that’s a 28-point lead.
Would you believe the Blue Hosers sock-hopped it back to within 14 points midway through the second half before the Flyers finally put them away, 81-69? That’s right. After holding PC to 17 first-half points, knocking the ‘byte’ out of PresBYTErian, the Flyers played the second half as if they were overstuffed with candy canes and egg nog. They gave up 52 points in the second half.
The first half was a well-framed basketball portrait. The Flyers shot 76 percent on 19 of 25. PC shot 18.8 per cent on 6 of 32.
Although they were only 6-and-6 when they arrived, the Blue Hose were fresh off a highly contested game at Butler, a game they led most of the first half before falling in the second half and losing, 75-67.
They slid into UD Arena with three players averaging in double figures — Adam Flager at 15.9, Francois Lewis at 14.9 and J.C. Younger at 10.9. And the Blue Hose had a string of seven straight games with 10 or more three-pointers.
At halftime Saturday, those three leading scorers combined for 10 points on 4 for 14 shooting. And the Blue Hose were 4 for 16 from three-point territory.
But in the second half garbage time, while visions of sugar plums danced in UD’s head instead of basketball, PC padded its stats.
Lewis and Flager finished with 20 and — are you ready for this? — the Blue Hose finished with 41 three-point shots, making 14.
When University of Dayton athletic director Neil Sullivan glanced at the final box score and saw PC’s 41 three-point attempts, he said, “Who do they think they are, the Houston Rockets?”
For the Flyers, now 7-and-5, it was more of the same — staggering around in the secnd half like a dizzy reindeer that has been into Santa’s liquor cabinet. It’s a bad habit the Flyers need to break.
When it was mentioned they were the Flawless Flyers in the first half and the Fumbling Flyers in the second half, guard Jalen Crutcher agreed.
“Coach (Anthony Grant) is always on us about it at halftime, telling us not to let up. Maybe if he doesn’t say anything to us about it, to come out and play strong in the second half, maybe we’ll come out and play strong in the second half,” Crutcher said with a laugh. “Every time he says it, we come out weak. Maybe if he doesn’t say it, we’ll be strong in the second half.
“We relaxed on the defensive end and they came out scoring,” he said. “They didn’t miss and we took the foot off the pedal.”
After inside players Josh Cunningham and Obi Toppin combined for 48 points in UD’s previous game, 28 for Cunningham and 20 for Toppin during an 85-72 win over Western Michigan, those two were deadly silent Saturday. Cunninham scored five and Toppin scored eight.
The slack was taken up by Crutcher and fellow guards Jordan Davis and Trey Landis.
Crutcher, who had 10 assists against Western Michigan, eight of them aimed Toppin’s way, led the Flyers in scoring with 19 on 8 of 12 shooting. He also was Mr. Complete with six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
“Whatever the defense gave me, I t0ok advantage of it and helped my team win that way today,” said Crutcher.
Davis, averaging 8.6 points a game, rammed home 18 on what appeared to be his most aggressive game of the season. He knocked down seven of 12 and hunted shots like a hound dog sniffing a rabbit hole.
Davis is from Irmo, S.C., just 53 miles from the Presbyterian campus in Clinton, S.C. A teammate noticed Davis getting himself extra excited before the game and he hinted that Presbyterian had no interest when Davis was in high school.
So, take that, Presby.
Presbyterian out-rebounded the Flyers, 37-36 and was 6-and-0 in games during which it snagged the most caroms. Not on this day, mostly because Trey Landers was boss of the boards with 14 rebounds to g0 with his 15 point on 7 of 11 shooting.
“Yes, we were great in the first half,” said Landers. “The first half. But they score 52 points in the second half and that doesn’t work for us at all.
“That’s stuff we have to look at and work on, but when you have a lead like we had at halftime you have a tendency to step back. And that was bad for us today. You have to keep your foot on the gas in these type of games.”
Yeah, especially with the low price of gas these days.
“At least we were efficient enough down the stretch to win by 12,” Landers added. “We have to do a better job of closing out games. I’ve seen the trend of us coming out with a lead in the second half and being a little stagnant. Coming back after we give up the lead against good teams is just not going to work and we’ve had that happen too much.”
It has been a mantra from coach Anthony Grant, who saw PC go from 4 for 16 from the trey line in the first to 10 for 25 in the second half after Blue Hose coach Dustin Kerns made the necessary offensive twists and tweaks.
UD’s Grant was unusually terse after the game. He usually begins his post-game press conference with a lengthy statement about the game, then takes questions. After this one he offered no monologue and said, “Questions?”
Asked about his team’s Dr. Jekyll first half and Mr. Hyde second half, Grant said, “I agree. The first half our guys were really locked in, from a scouting report stand-point. Offensively, we did a good job of being aggressive and attacking them.”
“Give them credit,” he said. “They made some adjustments to what they do offensively and got some opportunities at the rim and from behind the line. They got open lo0ks and knocked them down. Ten threes in the second half tells the story.”
Almost a sad and bitter story of a team leading by 28 at halftime losing at home to an inferior foe.
“Some of that was on us, some of it was on them,” he said. “I was pleased with what we did in the first half. I was pleased with what our guys took to the court mentally, at least for 20 minutes. The game is 40 minutes, it is always going to be 40 minutes.”
Unless it goes overtime.