The Dayton Flyers slapped hands with fans in the court-side seats and pointed to other fans in the stands at Talking Stick Resort Arena as they left the court following a 78-68 victory over Saint Mary’s on Sunday.
Facing its first big test as a ranked team, No. 19 Dayton (7-1) dominated from the opening minutes and withstood a run by the Gaels in the second half to improve to 7-1. It is the most important victory of the season so far for the Flyers and gives them a strong victory for their NCAA tournament resume.
“They’re a really good team,” Dayton forward Obi Toppin said. “We knew coming in here if we beat them it’s good for us. We knew they’re a really good shooting team, and we had that under control in the first half, and it was a high energy booster for us. We just had to finish it off in the second half.”
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Dayton entered the game with the highest Ken Pomeroy rating in its history. It was No. 21. Saint Mary’s was 43rd. Dayton now has three top-70 victories. It beat No. 64 Georgia and No. 61 Virginia Tech in the Maui Invitational.
Jalen Crutcher led Dayton with 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting and had six assists. Obi Toppin scored 16. Trey Landers had 15 points and eight rebounds. Ibi Watson added 11 points.
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Dayton shot 53.8 percent from the field and made 13 of 24 3-pointers. The Flyers led by as many as 24 points in the second half. The Gaels, who shot 45.1 percent from the field and 43.8 percent (7 of 16) from 3-point range, got as close as eight points with 1:54 left.
Dayton ended an eight-game winning streak for Saint Mary’s (9-2) and avenged losses to the Gaels in 2016 and 2017.
The Flyers made 10 of 15 3-pointers in the first half, building a 46-25 halftime lead.
Jalen Crutcher led the Flyers with 19 points. He made his first five 3-pointers and finished 5-of-6 from long range, 6 of 7 from the field and 2 of 2 from the free-throw line.
Obi Toppin scored seven points. Ryan Mikesell and Ibi Watson each scored six.
Dayton shot 69.6 percent from the field, while Saint Mary’s shot 33.3 percent. The Flyers led by as many as 24 points.
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The only negative stat for Dayton was eight turnovers. The Gaels also had eight turnovers.
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