The Flyers take their limited roster on the road, hoping to avoid a letdown and come home with an anticipated win against the Fordham Lambs (uh, Rams).
DAYTON — There are those in the Atlantic 10 Conference who wish that Fordham University’s basketball program would go away, pack up their squeaky sneakers and lock the doors on Rose Hill Gynmasium, their closet-sized home floor.
And there is that thought throughout the league even though Fordham is mostly a one-fingered pushover for the rest of the league.
The Rams, though, bring nothing to the table but a sure-fire win for their A-10 opponents — they have had one winning season in the last 13 years. That includes recent back-to-back seasons of 2-26 and 3-25, during which they were 1-31 in the A-10.
So far this season, after their first six games were canceled due to COVI(D-19, the Rams are 0-and-2, losing those two A-10 games by a combined 67 points — 71-41 to George Washington and 89-52 to La Salle.
The Rams are Lambs.
All of this is background for the University of Dayton’s visit to the 3,200-seat Rose Hill Gym Tuesday night to face Fordham.
It is called a Trap Game. The Flyers have beaten Fordham 32 times in their 37 meetings, but it is the kind of game during which the Flyers best be on their best behavior.
What makes it a tougher than normal trip to The Bronx is that the Flyers are maimed and broken.
Due to a box of chocolate assortment of injuries and Chase Johnson leaving the program, the Flyers played George Mason Saturday at UD Arena with only seven scholarship players.
Mustapha Amzil started only his second college game and Kobe Brea stareted his first college game.
With a pair of dynamic performances by Jalen Crutcher and Ibi Watson, both of whom played all 40 minutes, the Flyers prevailed 74-65. But they led by only two, 67-65, with a minute left until Mason coach Dave Paulsen was hit with a pair of technicals that led to UD’s final seven points.
And there is no report on the availability for the Fordham game for the three Flyers who missed the Mason game — starter Rodney Chatman, plus Elijah Weaver and R.J. Blakney. They are listed as game-time decisions.
That’s why this is a Beware Game for the Flyers, 5-and-2 overall and 1-1 in the A-10,
“Our team was really locked in to helping each other and we got great help from our bench,” coach Anthony Grant said after the George Mason victory. And Grant was missing two of his assistant coaches.
“And the guys who weren’t able to play, their voices were heard (on the sidelines) and it gave the guys who were able to play a big boost.”
One of the two scholarship bench players available, freshman Zimi Nwokeji, played 25 minutes and contributed seven points, including a couple of timely treys.
“I thought Zimi gave us great energy on the defensive side,” said Grant. “‘We played him in a couple of different positions and he was able to execute his assignments.”
With the Flyers down, 59-55, Jalen Crutcher spotted Nwokeji free in the corner, fed him the ball, and he knocked down a three to draw the Flyers within one with 5:41 left.
“That was a very, very important shot and him having the confidence and willingness to step up and take that shot at that time is great growth,” said Grant of the 6-foot-7 freshman guard from Quincy, Fla.
Asked about having only seven available players and one assistant coach, Grant said, “Obviously we’re down a few people. There are a lot of challenges that it poses, dealing with a pandemic.
“We’re dealing with that and some injuries and what you have to do is understand and focus on what you have,” he added. “The guys available were able to come together and find a way to do what was needed to get the win.”
Crutcher hit 9 of 14 shots and 5 of 6 free throws en route to a career-best 26 points. Ibi Watson hit 6 of 9, including 4 of 5 threes, to score 16. And Mustapha Amzil, playing his second game after practicing only three times with the team, chipped in with 15. This was after he scored 22 in his collegiate debut in a loss to La Salle.
The loss to La Salle, picked to finish next-to-last in a pre-season poll, ahead only of Fordham, was a jeering jolt to the Flyers.
“We have a team that understands what the expectations are at Dayton,” said Grant. “That’s why they chose to come to Dayton — to represent the school and this community, They take pride in that. It’s important to them.
“You aren’t always going to get the results that you want, but we try to control the things that we can control,” he added. “The guys were able to go out against Mason and do that.”
And even though Fordham appears to be the skinny pushover, the Flyers need to pay attention.
Things happen. Just asked the Wright State basketball team. After beating Oakland University on the road Friday, 90—51, the Raiders lost the next day to the same team on the same floor, 81-71, a 49-point turnaround. It happens.