Dayton Flyers guard Jalen Crutcher brought fire to the desert, scorching the nets at Talking Stick Resort Arena in the first half Sunday by making his first five 3-point attempts.
After No. 19 Dayton’s 78-68 victory over Saint Mary’s, Crutcher hoisted the game’s MVP plaque. Obi Toppin has earned most of the headlines this season for the Flyers, but his supporting cast is strong. Crutcher’s 21-point performance is the latest example.
“I’m blessed to get the MVP,” Crutcher said. “It’s a dream come true for me. I just thank my coaches and my teammates who have so much confidence in me and keep telling me to shoot the ball and keep doing me.”
Crutcher made 7 of 13 field goals, 5 of 8 3-pointers and 2 of 2 free throws. He tied the game at 3-3 with his first 3-pointer and then made three in a four-minute span, helping turn a 26-18 lead into a 40-18 advantage.
“It just felt like the rim was a lot bigger after I made my first shot,” Crutcher said.
Crutcher is shooting 40 percent (20 of 50) from 3-point range this season. He ranks second on the team in scoring (13.0) behind Toppin.
Dayton made 10 of 15 3-pointers in the first half, putting it on pace to break the school record of 17, but it cooled off in the second half, making 3 of 9.
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Still, Dayton shot a season-best 54.2 percent from long range and has shot better than 45 percent in three of the last four games. Dayton is shooting 40.3 percent from 3-point range this season. It ranks 19th in the country. A year ago, it ranked 231st (33.2).
Dayton entered the game with the nation’s best assists average (21.0) and had 16 in this game.
“It’s just our togetherness,” Crutcher said. “We’ve got so many weapons. We’ve got so many people who can play make for each other. We’ve got a lot of people who can shoot.”
“We have a lot of different guys who can do many different things,” Dayton guard Trey Landers said. “Coach preaches to us anybody can have their day on any given night.”
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Landers, who scored 15 points and made 3 of 3 3-pointers, is the team’s most improved shooter. He has made 7 of 15 this season. He credited his teammates for his improvement.
“They’re on me a lot about shooting the ball when I’m open,” Landers said. “It’s a big confidence thing for me. I’m a guy that has confidence and plays to my strengths, but it’s much better when you have teammates telling you to shoot the ball and they have confidence in me.
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