“Coming back from Chicago, we knew it would be a quick turnaround,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “There wasn’t a whole lot we could get done on the floor. We just took advantage of the time to teach and learn, and we had basically one day of prep for this. The guys were able to take information this morning about our opponent and go out and execute today, which was good.”
Watson scored 30 points, topping his previous career high by 10. He made 8 of 12 field goals, 4 of 5 3-pointers and 10 of 10 free throws in 30 minutes. He knew he was close to 30 when he stepped to the foul line with 2:25 to play.
“Everybody was telling me make both of them,” Watson said, “so there was more pressure on those last two. But it was just good to be out there with the guys and get another win that we needed.”
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Watson became the first Dayton player to score 30 since Josh Cunningham scored 32 against Rhode Island on Jan. 20, 2018.
“I thought tonight the guys took what the defense gave them,” Grant said. “Ibi was able to provide a lot of scoring. His teammates understood that he had the hot hand, and they were able to take advantage of that.”
Dayton postgame press conference: Grant after Grambling game
Watson stepped up on a quiet night for Obi Toppin, who was held to a season-low eight points on 3-of-5 shooting. Rodney Chatman also had his best offensive game of the season, scoring 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
There were more opportunities for Watson and Chatman because Jalen Crutcher missed the game. Watson started a game for the first time in his college career in Crutcher’s place.
Crutcher banged his head on the floor late in the Colorado game and was in concussion protocol. He said before the game he was OK, but it was too soon to say whether he would be ready for the next game against North Florida on Dec. 30.
Dayton didn’t need Crutcher to beat Grambling State, one of the three teams on the non-conference schedule that ranks among the bottom 75 teams in the Ken Pomeroy ratings. The Tigers hung with Dayton for about three minutes. Then seven straight points by Watson started a 13-0 run.
Dayton led 40-22 at halftime thanks in part to its defense. The Tigers shot 32.3 percent in the half. The Flyers played mostly zone in the half. That’s been a rare look for their defense this season.
“It’s always something you want to have available, and you want to work on it,” Grant said. “Some of the opponents we played this year, we felt we didn’t really have a chance to work on it. I think this was maybe the second game we’ve been able to play some extended possessions of it. It’s something that could be good for us as we move forward.”
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Dayton’s defense did not play as well in the second half. Grambling cut the deficit to 10 points twice midway through the half. Then at the 8:01 mark, a 3-pointer by Watson started another Dayton run. Four minutes later, after another 3 by Watson, the Flyers had doubled their lead to 68-48. They pushed it to as many as 30 points in the final minute.
“In the first eight minutes, we didn’t have the focus and urgency we needed defensively and had some issues taking care of the ball,” Grant said, “but I thought in the last 12 minutes, the guys did a great job in terms of being able to lock in and finish the game the right way. Right now, it’s a great time for our guys to be able to enjoy some time away with their family and friends during the holiday season, and we’ll get back to it after that.”
NOTES: Grant said players will return to campus Friday to start preparing for a busy week. After playing North Florida next Monday, Dayton travels to Philadelphia to start Atlantic 10 Conference play, facing La Salle (Jan. 2) and St. Joseph's (Jan. 5) in a four-day stretch. … Grant said Chase Johnson, who missed his fourth straight game, is home with his family in West Virginia and said, "We hope that we'll get him back here soon, but we'll wait and see."