No. 14 Dayton ‘feeling really good’ about itself after 31-point victory

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Highlights: Dayton's Ibi Watson scores 20 vs. Drake

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Flyers off to their best start in 11 years

If the statisticians counted smiles in the box score, the No. 14 Dayton Flyers would have set a season high late in the second half of a 78-47 victory against Drake on Saturday at UD Arena.

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There was Ibi Watson standing with his hands on his hips with a big grin as he watched a teammate shoot a free throw and Jalen Crutcher standing next to him with a similar look. It’s hard to contain the happiness when you’re making three 3-pointers in a three-minute stretch, as Watson did midway through the half.

There was Jhery Matos laughing after coming up short in a wild scramble for a loose ball under the basket in the final minute. There was walk-on Camron Greer enjoying every last basket as Dayton matched its most lopsided victory of the season — 99-68 over Houston Baptist — with another 31-point victory, this time against an opponent that had won four straight games and ranked 138th in the Ken Pomeroy ratings.

Drake (8-3) was an opponent everyone expected Dayton (8-1) to beat, but it was no slouch and this was its worst loss since a 77-44 defeat at Northern Iowa on Jan. 9, 2016. The Flyers, who have their best record through nine games since they were 8-1 in the 2008-09 season, dominated after a busy week in the classroom. First-semester exams fell between this game and a 78-68 victory against Saint Mary's on Sunday in Phoenix.

“We’re feeling really good about ourselves,” Dayton guard Trey Landers said. “Obviously, we had a long week with exams, but we’re always ready to get back on the court with each other.”

Here are eight highlights from Dayton’s eighth victory:

1. Watson starred: On the same night his former high school teammate Joe Burrow won the Heisman Trophy, Watson found his way into the spotlight as well. He scored a career-high 20 points on 6-of-8 shooting, making 4 of 6 3-pointers and 4 of 4 free throws. He improved his season shooting percentage from 3-point range to 48.8 (20 of 41).

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Watson is the fifth different player to lead the Flyers in scoring in the last five games, following Obi Toppin, Ryan Mikesell, Chase Johnson and Crutcher.

“Anybody can have it going on any given night,” Landers said. “That’s the thing we know about each other. Everybody capable of doing something different. We all have different strengths. It didn’t surprise me Ibi came out hot like that.”

2. Toppin did his thing: Toppin made 6 of 10 shots from the field, scoring 19 points. He also grabbed eight rebounds. He's averaging 21.1 points and 8.2 rebounds.

3. Toppin dominated the highlight reel as always: Toppin had two dunks, but it was a first-half block that stood out the most. He soared high into the air to get a piece of a shot by Drake's Roman Penn.

4. Landers delivered another solid all-around effort: With 12 points and 10 rebounds, Landers produced his first double-double of the season. Dayton outscored Drake by 41 points when he was on the floor. He has made a living in recent games with getting the tough rebounds in traffic and going back up for the basket.

“That’s just me playing to my identity,” Landers said. “That’s just who I am. I’m a guy who does all the dirty work. Somebody has to do it on the team. That’s a role I have, and I try to do it to the best of my ability.”

5. Dayton ran its transition offense well: The Flyers outscored Drake 35-4 in fast-break points. Coach Anthony Grant said that part of the offense works when the defense is getting stops and rebounds. Dayton held Drake to 28.6 percent shooting, its worst performance of the season.

6. Dayton made its free throws: The Flyers made 14 of 15 free throws, pushing their season percentage to 72.1. This was their best performance at the foul line since they made 14 of 15 against Richmond on Jan. 9, 2018.

7. The Flyers played one man down but had no issues: Johnson, who's averaging 11 minutes per game, missed the game with an illness. Some of his minutes went to Jordy Tshimanga, who played a season-high 15 minutes, and Matos, who did not play against Saint Mary's but saw 12 minutes in this game and two late 3-pointers.

8. Dayton took control with two big runs: It was an 18-18 game with under six minutes to go in the first half. A basket by Mikesell at the 5:44 mark started a 16-4 run that gave Dayton a 34-22 halftime lead.

Drake cut the deficit to 10 points twice in the first four minutes of the second half only to have Dayton pull away with a 21-2 run in a six-minute span. Watson scored 13 points in that stretch.

“We put together two really good halves of defense and offensively were able to find a rhythm in the second half,” Grant said. “Ibi gave us a big boost with some of the spurts he had.”

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