Crutcher clutch again at Saint Louis as Flyers bounce back after VCU loss

Dayton senior falls two points short of his career high

Jalen Crutcher still owns Saint Louis.

One year after his 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime lifted Dayton to a 78-76 road victory over the Billikens, Crutcher returned to Chaifetz Arena and scored 14 of his 27 points in the last five minutes Tuesday. His performance included a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 4:01 to play. That shot gave the Flyers the lead for good.

Crutcher made 8 of 14 field goals, including 5 of 9 3-pointers, and played all 40 minutes. He helped carry Dayton to a 76-71 victory over No. 22 Saint Louis.

“Saint Louis is a great team,” Crutcher said. “They were never going to quit. I had to go out there and make plays for my teammates.”

Dayton ended a seven-game losing streak against ranked opponents. This was its first victory over a top-25 team in coach Anthony Grant’s four seasons and its first since Dec. 9, 2015, when it won 72-67 at No. 21 Vanderbilt. The victory erased some of the sting lingering from a 66-43 loss Saturday at Virginia Commonwealth.

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Twice this season, Dayton has bounced back from disappointing defeats with a strong performance on the road. Dayton lost 55-54 at Fordham on Jan. 5 and then won 89-79 in overtime at Davidson on Jan. 8.

“Coach Grant was on us about that VCU loss,” Crutcher said. “This team, when we take a loss, we just move on to the next game, and that’s what we did.”

Dayton (9-4, 5-3) sits alone in sixth place in the Atlantic 10 Conference but ranks second in the league in victories. St. Bonaventure (8-1, 6-1) leads the A-10 with Davidson (10-5, 6-2) a half game back and Virginia Commonwealth, Massachusetts and Richmond all tied for third at 4-2.

Saint Louis (7-2, 0-1) is tied for last with Saint Joseph’s (1-13, 0-7). The Billikens played their first game since Dec. 23 after seven postponements related to positive COVID-19 tests.

“I don’t want to make excuses,” Saint Louis coach Travis Ford told reporters. “If they’re going to tell you to play and we’ve got to go play, then you’ve got to respond. You’ve got to figure it out. Nobody is feeling sorry for us.”

Saint Louis ran into a Dayton team that needed a better start after scoring 13 points in the first half against VCU and got it by making four 3-pointers in the first five minutes.

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Dayton opened the game with a 12-4 run and led 36-31 at halftime. It never trailed in the game.

“I thought we competed extremely well today,” Grant said. “We knew we would have to. To come on the road and get a win against a top-25 opponent is huge.”

Dayton won twice on a three-game stretch on the road and will alternate home and away games the rest of the season, starting with a 4 p.m. game Saturday against Rhode Island (8-8, 5-4) at UD Arena.

“I’m really proud of the resiliency,” Grant said.

Crutcher fell two points short of his career high one game after scoring a career-low four points.

Ibi Watson also bounced back from a sub-par performance, scoring 18 points and making 4 of 6 3-pointers after scoring five points on 2-of-10 shooting at VCU. He made two 3-pointers in less than a minute midway through the second half as Dayton extended its lead to 49-40.

Another basket by Watson at the 7:38 mark gave Dayton a 53-46 lead. Saint Louis answered with a 7-0 run, tying the game with 4:54 to play. After two free throws by Elijah Weaver, Saint Louis tied the game one last time with 4:31 to play. Crutcher’s scoring run started on the next possession.

“It was fun watching that,” Dayton center Jordy Tshimanga said of Crutcher. “That’s my brother. I love to see him succeed. He came out fired up, and that’s what we expect him to do.”

Dayton made 12 of 27 3-pointers (44.4 percent). It has shot better than 40 percent in all five of its A-10 victories and below 25 percent in its three losses.

Dayton held Saint Louis, one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the country, to two offensive rebounds. The Billikens averaged 10.4 offensive rebounds in their first eight games. Dayton had four offensive rebounds. Neither team scored a second-chance point.

“We knew we had to match their physicality,” said Tshimanga, who had 10 rebounds.

“We knew they were a rebounding team,” Crutcher said. “We knew every time they shoot the ball, there were going to be three or four men running to try to get the rebound, so we just had to lock in and box out and that’s what we did.”

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