Asked if he wished he could do the same, Mikesell laughed and nodded:
“Oh yeah …Yeah, I tell him all the time: ‘Just for one day! Let me get your hops for one day. I just want to see what it feels like to look down at the rim.’”
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Toppin shook his head and reached over and squeezed Mikesell’s right arm: “He’s amazing…I wish I had this. I just want this cannon.”
He was talking about Mikesell’s long-range shooting ability. Mikesell hit three 3-pointers against the Hawks which is as many treys as Toppin has made all season.
In many ways the two are opposites.
Toppin, a 6-foot-9 redshirt freshman, initially grew up in Brooklyn, has his long arms covered by various tattoos, including a large pair of praying hands, and has a loquacious and outgoing charm.
Mikesell, a 6-foot-7 redshirt junior, is from tiny St. Henry, has arms that are ink free and he exudes a more low-key earnestness.
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But their roles are a good fit for them and the team.
Toppin is the high flyer and Mikesell is the guy who keeps the team grounded.
Together they lifted UD to a come-from-behind win against the injury-depleted Hawks.
Toppin had a career-high 25 points — he went 11 for 14 from the field and is now the nation’s leader in field goal percentage at .692 (119 of 172) — and he also had a career-high 12 rebounds.
Mikesell had 21 points while also adding six rebounds, three assists, a steal and a blocked shot against no turnovers in nearly 35 minutes on the court.
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Toppin, who again provided some rim-rattling plays, was a real spurt of energy when he came off the bench at the 14:29 mark in the first half .
He scored eight points in a 14-0 run as the Flyers turned a 26-17 deficit into a 31-26 lead. And in the second half, when the Hawks surged back and tied the score, 50-50, he then scored four straight points to lift UD back into the lead for good.
It was Mikesell, though, for whom UD coach Anthony Grant had the most heartfelt praise after the game:
“I thought his voice, his leadership, kept us together when they were throwing haymakers and had us back on our heels. He did a real good job of calming the storm when we needed a voice to say here’s what we’ve got to do.
“Offensively, when we came down, he made sure we knew what we were in and what we needed to do from an execution standpoint. It was great to hear him on the court, just understanding what we had to do at different points in the game and verbalizing that … to everyone.”
Last year neither Mikesell, nor Toppin was available to Grant.
Both were sitting our redshirt seasons: Mikesell as he recovered from two hip surgeries and Toppin as he met NCAA academic requirements.
Out of the spotlight, they both got to know each other well.
“Everybody, they see his dunks now, but I’m kind of used to it,” Mikesell said. “He was doing that last year too when we were sitting out as redshirts on the scout team. He was doing it every day in practice.
“He worked extra hard. We were always together in the gym. We’d play one-on-one and we had a lot of fun. I knew going into this season he was going to have a great year.”
While Mikesell starts, Toppin comes of the bench and is tied with Jalen Crutcher as the team’s second leading scorer, averaging 12.9 points per game.
With Josh Cunningham, the team’s leading scorer (14.8 points per game) held to three points against the Hawks, Toppin was the reason UD still outscored Saint Joseph 46-20 in the paint.
“Before the game coach told everybody we were going to have an advantage inside,” Toppin said.
“It was great to see him go out and do the things we had talked about,” Grant said. “I thought he was able to impact the game with his rebounding and obviously, his scoring. And defensively he had some great plays for us.”
Asked if he’s ever thought of starting Toppin rather than bringing him off the bench, Grant – while not ruling it out – said he thought it had been working out pretty well as it is was.
“It really doesn’t matter to me. Whatever Coach needs me to do. Whatever the team needs me to do. I’m OK with it.”
He said those first few minutes on the bench each game are actually a good tutorial for him:
“I’m just looking on how they’re playing Josh. They usually play Josh kind of the same way they play me…I get a better understanding when I’m coming in the game from the bench…. I’m gonna know what to do.”
Mikesell is playing with a new confidence this year. He knows he’s one of the leaders on this young team and he’s doing more things on the court than he did in his two previous seasons here.
His only real miscue Tuesday came with just over nine minutes left when he drove to the basket unimpeded, only to get caught between a dunk attempt and a layup, which caused him to miss the shot.
“He should have made that dunk,” a grinning Toppin needled.
Shaking his head and laughing, Mikesell tried to explain:
“What happened was….I saw Trey (Landers) hit that big dunk and Obi was dunking and had that put back dunk. I was like, ‘Hey, let me get one!’
“Then I took off and it was like I ran out of gas. I was like ‘Aaaahhhh!’
“I should stick to what I do.”
That makes sense.
At the end of that movie Trading Places, when both Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd go back to their real selves, they both end up getting rich.
And at UD Arena Tuesday night, with Toppin and Mikesell just being themselves — one the high flyer, the other the guy who keeps the team grounded — the Flyers had good fortune, as well.