Dayton coach talks to reporters as team returns to practice after Christmas.
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Dayton Flyers return to practice to prep for non-conference finale

Flyers play Georgia Southern at 3:30 p.m. Saturday

A video posted to Instagram shows the players shaking the wrapped boxes and trying to guess the contents. They’re basketball players. They didn’t have to ponder long.

“Shoes,” Ibi Watson said.

“Shoes,” Jordan Tshimanga said.

Each of the players received unwrapped new Nike high-tops. They received a better gift Saturday in the form of their seventh victory, 81-69 over Presbyterian, but the real prize came this week. All the players returned home for the holidays: Jhery Matos to the Dominican Republic, Obi Toppin to New York, etc.

» JABLONSKI: My top 10 sports photos of the year

“It’s important for guys to spend time with their families during the holidays,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said Thursday. “We got a chance to get the guys away for a few days and got them back last night. I think everybody had a good time away.”

The Flyers (7-5), who return to action at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against Georgia Southern (8-4) at UD Arena, needed the break after playing three games in seven days. Four of Dayton’s starters average more than 30 minutes per game with point guard Jalen Crutcher (35.3) leading the way. The rest ended Wednesday as the team returned to campus for practice.

“It’s always tough anytime you take consecutive days off,” Grant said. “Yesterday was more about just blowing out some of the pumpkin pie, the cheesecake and all the other stuff the guys had during the holidays. The rest for the body, being able to take three days off was good. The idea right now is to get us back in playing form and in the rhythm we need in order to play well.”

» THROWBACK THURSDAY: Looking back at Dayton’s lone game on Christmas

The schedule gives Dayton another break next week. They don’t play again until Jan. 6 when they host Richmond in the first of 18 Atlantic 10 Conference games. The last time Dayton had that much time off between the end of non-conference play and the start of A-10 play came in 2013-14 when they played Jan. 4 at Mississippi and then started conference play Jan. 11 against Saint Louis.

Grant said the Flyers will focus on themselves next week in practice.

“We’ll take a few days to focus on what we need to do as we prepare for conference and get ready for Richmond.,” he said. “Then the schedule, once we start conference, will be pretty intense. It’ll be the last chance we get fine tune some things.”

NOTES: Matos, back in Ohio after his trip home, underwent surgery Thursday to repair torn ligaments in his foot. He shared a photo on Instagram before the surgery and wrote, “It’s about to be a long day. God’s hands.” He’s expected to be at the game Saturday. He suffered the injury Nov. 23 during a game against Oklahoma and will miss the rest of the season. … Through Wednesday, Dayton ranked 77th in the NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool). It’s the third-highest ranked Atlantic 10 team behind No. 56 Virginia Commonwealth and No. 71 Saint Louis.

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