They were down by eleven points down with fourteen minutes left, but Dayton rallied behind Obi Toppin and their three-point shooting for a thrilling win over Duquesne.
DAYTON — They hadn’t yet wiped the perspiration off the game ball and hadn’t yet cleaned up the crumpled paper cups around the benches after Saturday afternoon’s University of Dayton-Duquesne basketball game in UD Arena.
But Flyers coach Anthony Grant, still catching his breath, was asked, “How about Tuesday night’s game at St. Louis?”
Grant smoothed his grey silk tie, top button on his white shirt still hooked, as always, and said, “Have we had an easy one yet? I don’t think so.”
On a degree of difficulty from 1 to 10 Saturday afternoon, scored UD’s 68-64 victory over Duquesne as a ’12.’
Against a spunky, feisty upstart Duquesne, the surprise team of the Atlantic-10 Conference, the Flyers were in a listless fog that had the sellout crowd of 13,147 in UD Arena as silent as if it was watching The Barber of Seville at the New York Metropolitan Opera.
The Flyers were down 11 points, 45-34, with 14 minutes left in the game. They had shot threes like trying to drop a bowling ball through a wedding ring — 0 for 10 at that point.
They were missing free throws, turning the ball over, giving up second shots.
On the sideline, Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot was smiling as if he still coached LeBron James, which he did at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.
Then, as Flyer extraordinare Obi Toppin calls himself and his teammates, ‘The Band of Brothers’ came together.
After Toppin, en route to a career-best 26 points, scored on a fast break, Dwayne Cohill hit a three from the right corner, UD’s first three after 10 misses.
The arena exploded as if Elvis had walked into the building. Jalen Crutcher hit two straight threes, Toppin scored on a fast break and Jordan Davis hit a three to give the Flyers their first lead since 10-9, a 50-48 advantage with 10 minutes left.
From their it was a madcap scramble to the finish, tied ar 64-all with 2:20 left.
Crutcher hit a floater at 1:32 and made one of two free throws with :44.5 left for a 67-64 UD lead.
In a final flurry, Trey Landers hustled back on a Duquesne fast break to disrupt the play and Ryan Mikesell deflected a pass to teammate Jordan Davis. Davis was fouled and made one of two free throws at :00.6 to seal it.
UD and the Dukes were tied in the A-10, but Flyers lifted themselves to 7-and-2 in league play (15-7 overall) and dropped Duquesne to 6-and-3 (15-7 overall).
“The was a heck of a college basketball game today,” said UD coach Anthony Grant. “It was an incredible environment and the place was rockin’. Duquesne is a heck of a basketball team and they came in here and gave us everything we wanted.”
After a 10-10 tie, Duquesne put on a 22-8 rush to move in front, 32-18 with four minutes left in the half. Fans were staring at their fingernails and punching stuff into their cellphones.
The Flyers managed a late rush, but still trailed at the half, 36-28.
“We had some opportunities to make some decisions today, just on how we handled the adversity that hit us today,” said Grant. “I was really proud. I thought we grew up some today. We were able to overcome the adversity that hit us in the first half and the adversity that hit us in the second half.
“Different guys stepped up on in a lot of different ways, which I am every proud of,” he added. “We try to talk about it the last month in terms of getting prepared — here is what’s coming and here is what’s needed. A lot of those situations we were in today and a lot of our guys made some unbelievable plays.”
Once again, though, it was Toppin, the 6-9 red shirt freshman who invited the team to climb aboard and take a piggyback ride. The nation’s No. 1 percentage shooter was 11 of 16 with his usual Esther Price assortment of dunks, 26 points, five rebounds, four steals, two blocked shots, two assists and a couple of partridges in a pear tree.
Asked if he is on a level where he can take over a game, which he has the last two games, Toppin smiled and said, “If that’s what the coach and the team needs me to do. I’ll work my heart out, but in the game I’ll just go with the flow.”
Of his team coming from behind, Toppin said, “We’ve faced adversity our whole careers, from conditioning to practices to games. So we’re ready for anything and this was just another day of adversity. We were down 12 with like eight minutes to go and our team stuck together.
“We are brothers, all of us on the team,” said Toppin. “It’s like The Good Fellows. When we stick together we’re dangerous. And the crowd was ridiculous. When the crowd gets loud, we get energized, like The Energizer Bunny.”
Crutcher was 0 for 4 from three in the first half, hit a couple of them back-to-back early in the second half then left the game with an ankle twist.
He sat about 2 1/2 minutes, had the ankle wrapped, and returned to the game to score five big points down the stretch.
“That was amazing that he came right back in and hit a couple of big shots for us and we definitely needed them,” said Toppin.
Said Crutcher, “I just tweaked my ankle a little bit. I re-taped it.”
Of the team’s sordid early shooting and the sharp-shooting when needed, Crutcher said, “I was missing all my shots in the first half, but in the second half when I saw a couple go in, I just got hot and the crowd was in it. When the crowd is more in it, you have more chances of making shots.
“Sometimes it takes just one shot to go in to give you confidence and especially when the crowd was loud like today,” he added.
Toppin with 26 and Crutcher with 16 were the only offensive producers, but Josh Cunningham had 10 rebounds, Ryan Mikesell and Trey Landers had three assists each and Jordan Davis did his darndest on defense.
His assignment was Duquesne slinky-silky guard Sincere Carry. He scored 15 points but Davis stalked him into taking 22 shots to make seven, 1 of 8 from three.
“J.D.’s defense today was awesome,” said Grant. “It was huge. Carry is quite the player and they put the ball in his hands to let him make plays. And J.D. took that challenge on and did a great job.”
And now Grant can talk about St. Louis.