Grambling State University is criss-crossing the country, picked up checks as cannon fodder for bigger basketball programs and the Tigers cooperated thoroughly Saturday afternoon by lowing way down and way low to the University of Dayton, 76-46, at UD Arena.
Dayton, OH. — It was common knowledge that Grambling State University’s basketball team was paid a handsome ransom to come to UD Arena and stand blindfolded with backs to the wall.
Grambling is on a month-long tour of the nation collecting checks while serving as pinatas for bigger schools, depositing appearance money into the Grambling athletic department bank account.
It pays the bills.
The Traveling Tigers already popped into Ames and got popped, 92-37, by Iowa State. They already stopped in Boulder and got blasted by Colorado, 95-63.
And next week Grambling covers 1,620 miles to Pullman to accept a check and a beating from Washington State.
Although there was a quick whiff of early apprehension in UD Arena Saturday afternoon, Grambling played its part beautifully, absorbing a 76-46 beatdown from the University of Dayton.
UD missed its first two shots and committed two turnovers while Grambling hit two of its first three shots and took a 4-0 lead 3 1/2 minutes into the game.
It was a quick party for Grambling. The Flyers, led by Nate Santos, went on a 14-0 run while Grambling missed nine straight shots.
Santos hit a pair of threes and a deuce for eight of UD’s 14 points and a 14-4 lead.
They could have, and probably should have, stopped the game right then and gone directly to the halftime ceremonies — a recognition of the 1983-84 Dayton team that made the NCAA Elite Eight and lost in the West Regional finals to Georgetown, 61-49. Georgetown went on to win the national championship.
Coach Don Donoher received the loudest ovation of the day from the Flyer Faithful as his team lined up on the floor with him — Roosevelt Chapman, Sedric Toney, Damon Goodwin, Ed Young, Larry Shellenberg, Dan Christie and current coach Anthony Grant, a freshman on that team.
“Having coach Donoher in the building with us is always going to be special,” said Grant. “For him to come out and feel the appreciation we all have for him, the Flyer Faithful have for him. You cherish those opportunities to show how much he is loved.”
While the love affair with Donoher was enacted, UD owned a 40-16 halftime lead. Grambling was 7 for 29 and 0 for 13 from three.
The Flyers were led by Santos with 13 points (5 for 6 from the field and 3 for 3 from three) and Brea with 12 on four of six from three.
And the second half was nothing more than unwinding the clock as UD lifted its record to 6-2.
And Santos never stopped. He finished with a career-best 26 points on 10 for 12, six for seven from three. Brea slowed down and made only one three in the second half, missing his last three shots from three-point territory, but finished with 15, going 5 for 10 from three.
“I told (Santos) earlier, ‘You might have a better shot than me,’” said Brea, to which Santos quickly answered, “No.”
But Brea kept on and said, “It’s not often I play with somebody who shoots better than me. But it is good to have another person shoot like that at a high level. It bring a lot of problems to the opposing team.”
After UD’s previous game, a 65-63 upset of Southern Methodist in Dallas, SMU coach Rob Lanier said, “We made it clear to our guys that we had to stop two of their shooters, but we forgot about one.”
The Mustangs stopped Santos, holding him to four points, but Brea went for 22, hitting six of eight from three.
On Saturday, Santo went off and Brea was his first-half associate.
Meanwhile, UD’s normally best scorer, 6-10 DaRon Holmes II, was one for six from the field and scored only five points.
And Grant didn’t see that as a negative.
“We talk alot about having a variety of different guys that can provide offensive scoring for us,” he said. “Nate Santos had a great night from a shooting standpoint. He has the ability to impact games in different ways, as we’ve seen eight games into the season. . .rebounding, defending and his ability to score the basketball.”
While Santos and Brea lit up the stat sheet, point guard Javon Bennett lit up Grant’s heart. Bennett was 1 for 7 from the floor, 0 for 3 from three, but Grant pinned an extra large gold star on him.
“Javon Bennett really stood out to me,” said Grant. “I thought, from the standpoint that he didn’t have a great shooting night, when you look at his numbers, but he had eight assist, no turnovers and he was a plus-34.
“That is impacting winning, when you can have the kind of impact on nights when, from an offensive standpoint, things that people want to talk about and make it (offense) the biggest thing, his impact was huge, without the scoring,” said Grant.
Incredibly, Santos played two years at the University of Pittsburgh and barely sniffed the floor, let alone the nets.
So he transferred to Dayton, where he was recruited and visited before signing with Pitt. And how did he survive at Pitt?
“I would hear from some different coaches and my teammates to help me out,” said Santos. “They’d say to stay ready and stuff like that. I would continue to try to work hard every day, try to do whatever I could in that situation.”
Santos stayed ready, stayed set, but there was seldom a go for him, so off to Dayton he went.
Santos is not the only newcomer/transfer — Bennett from Merrimack, Enoch Cheeks from Robert Morris and Isaac Jack from Buffalo.
“The coaches did a great job of recruiting,” said Santos. “Not only the fact they are great players on the court, but they’re great human beings, ya’know? And off the court we all bond great. I feel that’s the reason that on the court we play so well together.”
UD’s next challenge comes late Wednesday night, a 9 p.m. start in UD Arena against UNLV (University of Nevada-Las Vegas).