Forward Josh Cunningham ran to the locker room after the Dayton Flyers beat Saint Louis 53-50 and shouted, “Kostas came up big!”
That would be Kostas Antetokounmpo for everyone who forgot him, and they could be forgiven for doing so because he had not played like he did Tuesday for months. Antetokounmpo, a 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman, tied a career high with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting, grabbed four rebounds and blocked three shots.
Antetokounmpo did most of his damage in the second half, helping the Flyers (13-14, 7-8) rally from a 33-20 deficit.
“My job was to come in and play hard,” Antetokounmpo said. “I came in and played as hard as I can. It helped. I’m happy.”
Antetokounmpo reached double figures for the first time since he had 10 points and 10 rebounds against Tennessee Tech on Dec. 6. He had a strong game against Richmond on the road on Jan. 9, scoring nine points and grabbing four rebounds in an 87-81 victory.
In the last 10 games, however, Antetokounmpo had averaged 1.8 points. He played only five minutes Saturday in an 80-70 victory against Duquesne. He played 19 minutes in this game and showed his potential on both ends of the floor.
“It was great to see Kostas come out and impact the game the way he did,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “I thought in the first half and especially the second half, his intensity offensively attacking the basket, playing through contact, finishing through contact and getting to the free-throw line and then defensively being a force guarding on the perimeter, being a deterrent on the inside and affecting shots, it was great to see.”
Saint Louis (15-13, 8-7) shot 50 percent in the first half but 38.5 percent in the second half. After falling behind 33-20 two minutes into the second half, Dayton held Saint Louis to four points in the next seven minutes.
“Overall, our team stepped up to the challenge from a defensive standpoint,” Grant said, “and our defense won the game for us.”