It’s hard to outshine the Red Panda. The acrobat has performed at halftime of Dayton men’s basketball games for years. She balances high above Tom Blackburn Court on a unicycle and flips ceramic bowls onto her head.
Red Panda, whose real name is Krystal Niu, returned to UD Arena on Tuesday, thrilling the afternoon crowd but not outperforming the Flyers, who routed Alabama 80-48. In a poll of Dayton fans on Twitter, 66 percent said the Flyers put on a better show than Red Panda.
This was Alabama’s worst loss since March 3, 2001 (105-71 at Mississippi). It was also the first loss for new Alabama coach Avery Johnson, the 2006 NBA Coach of the Year.
“Their defense deserves a lot of credit,” Johnson told RollTide.com after the game. “We had tough shots every trip down the court, and we had a difficult time scoring. We started to have silly turnovers and were having a hard time getting shots at the basket. We struggled with unforced errors. Give Dayton credit, they capitalized off of those. We knew this would be a tough environment to play in. Dayton is a veteran, well-oiled machine, and we ran into the buzzsaw today.”
That buzzsaw recorded its most lopsided victory against a Southeastern Conference team since it beat Auburn 106-63 in 1972 at UD Arena. For the first time since 1956-57, when they beat Gustavus Adolphus 84-48 and Miami (Fla.) 87-48, the Flyers have won their first two games of the season by 30 or more points.
Dayton beat Alabama with a national audience watching ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon. It was the second strong victory for the Atlantic 10. George Washington beat No. 6 Virginia 73-68 on Monday.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino noticed those victories and told a Louisville radio station, “George Washington and Dayton are as good as anybody in the country. They could play with anybody in the top five.”
Former Flyer Devin Oliver, who plays professionally in Israel, raved about the performance on Twitter.
“Those Dayton Flyers are about business this year!!” Oliver wrote. “I love it!”
With Steve McElvene and Charles Cooke each blocking two shots and Scoochie Smith and Kyle Davis combining for seven of Dayton’s 11 steals, the Flyers held Alabama to 29.8 percent shooting. The Crimson Tide hadn’t shot below 30 percent from the field since Jan. 18, 2014 (29.2 percent against Missouri).
Dayton’s defensive effort helped its offense. The Flyers shot 46.7 percent from the field (28 of 60) and 42.9 percent from 3-point range (9 of 21). They pushed the tempo after getting defensive stops and outscored Alabama 13-6 on fast-break points and 32-18 in the paint.
“We’re not very good on offense right now, but we got a lot of defense to offense, which made it easier for us,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “We’re going to have to get better in the halfcourt.”
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