Anthony Grant heard it all game long.
“From the beginning of the game to the end of the game, at halftime, you could hear his voice,” the University of Dayton coach said of Trey Landers following the Flyers’ 82-72 upset of St Bonaventure on Wednesday night at UD Arena.
While Landers scored a career-high 17 points, had a career-high four blocked shots (before this he’d only four total in college), had a team-high three steals and added five rebounds and an assist, that’s not what Grant talked about most afterward:
“Some of the things he did you can look at on the stat sheet. But the majority of what he did tonight won’t show up on the stat sheet. His hustle plays his voice, his leadership – those things were contagious tonight and our guys fed off it.”
Four days after their worst loss of the season – a 70-62 flop at Duquesne in the Atlantic 10 opener – the Flyers had several players step up with big performances against the highly regarded Bonnies, an 11-2 team that was on an eight-game winning streak which included dispatches of Maryland, Syracuse and Massachusetts by 20.
Wednesday night, UD senior guard Darrell Davis had a career-high 28 points and was perfect 10 for 10 from the free throw line in the final 3:39 (including six straight in the last 35 seconds).
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Freshman Jalen Crutcher had 12 points, six assists and played some solid defense on the Bonnies’ high-scoring senior Jaylen Adams, who went 3 for 11 from the field.
And the Flyers 6-foot-10 Kostas Antetokounmpo added some high-soaring but level-headed play off the bench.
But one guy – the linebacker-built sophomore guard Trey Landers – emerged as a voice of the team.
“He’s what I call an alpha,” Grant said. “He’s one of those guys who has a voice and is learning to use that voice.”
You saw that happen several times down the stretch in the second half. Every time there was a break in the action, especially when St. Bonaventure — which never led — fouled to stop the clock, Landers gathered his teammates together in an attentive scrum and talked to the them much the way a quarterback holds sway in the football huddle.
“I just kept telling them we’ve got to stay together,” Landers said. “I’d say, ‘They might come down and hit a three or something, but whatever adversity we face, let’s weather the storm. Let’s keep our composure and make a play. Let’s hit the free throws, let’s get a defensive stop.’
“We call it conquering the chaos.”
The victory could not have come at a better time. The Flyers were 6-7 and Grant had been disappointed by the effort and focus a couple of players had shown of late.
And some fair-weather followers – emboldened by the anonymity they have on fan sites and some forms of social media – were becoming increasingly critical of certain players on this young team and especially of Grant, who, by the way, won his 200th college game Wednesday in a career that’s spanned 9 ½ seasons as a head coach.
“We focus on us, not about what people talk about on the outside,” Landers said. “At the end of the day it’s about our circle, our family – that’s what we call it. We don’t get into social media and what’s being said.”
And yet he admitted he did listen to one voice from the outside.
“I’d say the person I talked to most was my oldest brother,” he said in reference to Robert, the always-engaging, 282-pound Ohio State defensive lineman who was just part of the Bucks manhandling of Southern Cal in the Cotton Bowl.
“I heard from him right after the Duquesne game and about four or five times since,” Trey said. “We talk every day. He just wanted to make sure I was in the right mindset coming into this game. He gave me a good view of what I was going through, as far as taking a tough loss against a team you felt you should have beaten.
“He kind of put it in the example (how) he lost to Iowa. He put it in that perspective. He told me to get to the next game, the next play. It’s about bouncing back. And I felt we did that today.”
While his brother is known as a squat, beefy lineman — “I’m not fat, I’m just a little thick around the edges,” Robert puckishly said in a December press session leading up to the USC game — Trey claimed he’s “very impressive” on the basketball court.
“We played together my freshman year in high school. We called him ‘The Bull.’ We called him ‘The Tank.’ He’s a big body… a monster in the post.”
While Trey — at 6-foot-5 and 224 pounds — has a bit of a football carriage as well and has shown some bullish, physical play, he said, “If I’ve got to play with finesse, I can.”
Wednesday night he showed a mix of both, but he said the impressive performance he and his teammates turned in really was molded in the last couple days of practice leading into the Bonnies game:
“We had a tough couple of practices. We competed a lot. Coach talked to us after the Duquesne game. He’s a man of less words, but he’s passionate about what he says. He played here. He wore our jersey. He played with such passion and he tried to give us that. He wanted us to be accountable, to have courage and to step up.
“Josh (Cunningham) and Coach and Darrell, they all said I need to play a bigger role. So I stepped up and played my role.
“I didn’t try to do anything I’m not used to doing. I just embraced my role. I embraced what I can do best.”
And Wednesday night that meant speaking up.
He gave the Flyers the voice off which they fed.