The No. 13 Dayton Flyers welcome Virginia Commonwealth back to UD Arena on Tuesday night almost two years to the day after what remains the most impressive UD offensive performance in coach Anthony Grant’s first three seasons.
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Dayton routed VCU 106-79 on Jan. 12, 2018. That victory didn’t foreshadow a a great run by the Flyers. It was the opposite, in fact. They lost four of their next five games.
What it did show is the potential of the Flyers on offense under Grant. They ranked 109th in the nation in efficiency that first first season, a 56-spot drop from Archie Miller’s last season, despite ranking second in the country in 2-point shooting (59.5).
In the last two seasons, Dayton’s field-goal percentage inside the 3-point arc has remained consistent, while its overall offense has gotten more efficient. The offense ranked 43rd in efficiency last season and again second (59.5) in 2-point shooting. This season, it ranks third in efficiency behind only Gonzaga and Duke and first in 2-point shooting (62.3).
The one weak spot for the offense has been turnovers. Dayton showed some improvement in that category with eight turnovers against Saint Joseph’s and 11 against Massachusetts. It had not committed fewer than 10 in a game since the third game of the season.
“Our guys understand because we’ve emphasized it for several months now,” Grant said Saturday, “not just since the season started that we need to take care of the basketball better. As efficient as we can be, when we get shots, we’re really good. We just need to make sure we’re giving ourselves a chance to get a shot every possession.”
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Dayton’s offense thrives when players are unselfish and make the extra pass. The team ranks 12th in the country with assists on 62.7 percent of its made field goals.
Dayton is the only team in the A-10 with two players who rank among the top 10 players in the conference in average assists. Jalen Crutcher ranks sixth with 5.2 per game. Rodney Chatman ranks ninth with 4.3. They rank fifth and seventh, respectively in assist-to-turnover ration (2.2 and 2.0).
While the offense revives around Obi Toppin, who averages 19.3 points per game, four other players average in double figures, and Chatman (9.o) isn’t far behind. Ibi Watson’s 3-point shooting (38.5) percent has taken the offense to another level as has the steady play of seniors Trey Landers and Ryan Mikesell.
Mikesell had one of his best games Saturday, producing a double-double with 15 points and a career-high 14 rebounds.
“He does everything for us,” Grant said. “Ryan’s that guy, as a senior, who gives us leadership, and he knows the system. He helps other guys on the floor. He has the ability to score for us. He impacts the game without scoring. It was great to see his 14 rebounds. What really has added another dimension for us offensively is when he rebounds and ignites the break for us. He was able to get it off the glass and lead the break and either advance it to others or finish himself. It’s great when you have that versatility with a guy his size.”
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