Impressive Dayton took another step towards national recognition and raised their record to 7-1 in the Arizona desert with a win over the Saint Mary’s Gaels.
While on a trip to Hawaii recently, the Flyers did more than attend luaus, ride surf boards and check out the grass skirts.
They also played some eye-popping basketball in the Maui Classic, grabbing nation-wide attention with double-digit victories over Georgia and Virginia Tech before losing in overtime to Kansas.
It gained them a 6-and-1 record and a No. 19 ranking in the Associated Press poll.
After a quick trip home to annihilate Houston Baptist, which needed John the Baptist to have any hope of sticking with the Flyers, UD hopped another airplane for an excursion to Arizona for a game Sunday.
They played in an event called the Air Force Reserve Jerry Colangelo Classic. It was played on a Native American reservation called the Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Their opponent was the St. Mary’s College Gaels, a mid-major powerhouse that battles Gonzaga ever year for the West Coast Conference title.
No, the Flyers didn’t win. They whomped. They piled up a 24-point second-half lead before prevailing, 78-68.
The Gales walked into Talking Stick with a 9-and-1 record, including victories over Wisconsin and nationally-ranked Utah State.
The Flyers, though, did everything practically perfect in the first half that can be done practically perfect on a basketball floor.
By intermission the Flyers were up 46-25 as they took apart the Gaels like a Thanksgiving turkey, gizzard and all.
At halftime ESPN’s famous bracketolgist, Joe Lunardi, was interviewed and he had the Flyers nearly in the Final Four.
“Right now, Dayton is playing like an NCAA Sweet Sixteen team, maybe an Elite Eight team,” he said.
The Flyers made the basket resemble a huge crater, dropping in 16 of 23 shots (70 per cent). And they made 10 of 15 three-pointers.
The NBA’s Phoenix Suns play their home games at Talking Stick. The Flyers ignored the college three-point line and fired away from beyond the NBA line, making most of them while St. Mary’s retrieved the ball from out of the net, shaking their heads in disbelief.
UD guard Jalen Crutcher was particiularly unconscious, dropping in five of six three-pointers. The Flyers made 10 of 14 three-pointers in the first half.
The St. Mary’s roster contains nine foreign and international players and they all were saying, “We can’t do that in Australia, New Zealand, Latvia, Estonia and England.”
In addition to dropping the ball into the basket like caring folks flipping coins into a Salvation Army bucket, the Flyers were a first-half study in the art of the fast break, the principles of stifling defense and the element of sharing the basketball.
And it continued early into the second half as the Flyers constructed a 24-poing lead, 56-32.
Suddenly, it was as if the tribal nation forgot to pay the bill for the lights under UD’s basket. And a spotlight was shining on the St. Mary’s basket.
And the Flyers took a vacation from playing defense.
The Gaels, aided by UD turnovers and a chocolate box of assorted bad shots, went on a 16-2 explosion. The 24-point evaporated to 10, 58-48.
The Flyers, thanks mostly to Trey Landers, managed to stay a couple of steps in front. St. Mary’s was with eight, 74-66, with two minutes left.
Landers, though, hit a couple of free throws and hit a floater down the lane with 1:30 left to keep the Flyers in front, 76-68.
Landers scored 16, with 13 coming n the second half, most of them of the highly important variety.
After scoring 19 in the first half, Crutcher scored just two in the second half and finished with game-high 21.
The Flyers lead the nation in assists with 21 a game and had 15 Sunday, six from Crutcher.
And although the Gales stood much taller and thicker than the Flyers, UD won the boards battle, 33-25.
Obi Toppin chipped in with 16 points including four dunks, and Ibi Watson added 11.
Senior guard Jordan Ford came into the game leading the Gaels with a 20.5 average. Not on this day, and
not on Rodney Chapman’s watch. Chapman muzzled and manacled Ford, holding him to 11.
The Classic’s host, Jerry Colangelo, is quite a character as a former owner of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and baseball’s Chicago White Sox.
Colangelo is a big cigar smoker. A few years ago at the baseball winter meetings, he was told there was a $1,000 fine for smoking in the hotel room.
As he checked in he wrote a check for $1,000 and invited all his cigar-loving compatriots into him room to sm0ke up the drapes.
It was almost as bad as the smoking the Flyers gave St. Mary’s in the first half.