Three fans approached Dayton Flyers coach Anthony Grant just before he began a post-game interview Sunday. They wanted to shake his hand and thank him for the 80-67 victory, telling him they had been coming to Hagan Arena for 10 years and had never seen UD win.
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Dayton’s streak of futility at Saint Joseph’s began on Jan. 14, 2001, with an 84-71 loss at what was then called Alumni Fieldhouse. Keith Waleskowski was a freshman on that team, and he was in the building Sunday, calling the game with Larry Hansgen on WHIO Radio, when Dayton ended the nine-game losing streak at the arena.
Hansgen and Dayton’s sports information director Doug Hauschild were two of the few people who were there on Sunday and on Jan. 29, 2000, when Dayton last won at Saint Joseph’s. Most of the Flyers were toddlers on that date. Sophomore guard Dwayne Cohill was 10 days old.
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Six of the nine Flyers who played in this game had never seen action at Hagan Arena, but all the Flyers knew the history well and knew what it meant to end the streak in the second game of a new decade just three days after ending a four-game losing streak at La Salle with an 84-58 victory.
“It means everything,” senior guard Trey Landers said. “Obviously, we knew we were going to come into a hostile environment. We took their best shot in the first half. They really came out on fire. We just had to weather the storm. We haven’t faced much adversity this year. We had to overcome some adversity. I think we did a good job of that tonight.”
No. 20 Dayton (13-2, 2-0) gave up a 9-2 run to start the second half and trailed 42-35 with 18 minutes to play. The Hawks (3-11, 0-2) didn’t enjoy the lead for long. Five straight points by Landers started an 11-1 run.
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Dayton didn’t trail again. Saint Joseph’s got no closer than five points in the final nine minutes. The Flyers earned their 12th double-digit victory.
“I thought we responded well,” Grant said. “You’ve got to give Saint Joseph’s credit. I thought they came in with a good game plan. Early in the game, I thought we settled a lot offensively. We were uncharacteristic offensively in the first half, but I thought our guys settled down in the second half and were able to get the ball inside and made some good decisions. We found a rhythm offensively.”
Dayton shot 17.6 percent (3 of 17) from 3-point range in the first half and 50 percent (6 of 12) in the second half. The poor shooting didn’t extend to the free-throw line. The Flyers made 17 of 18 (94.4 percent), their best performance of the season. Dayton also took care of the ball better than they have all season, committing a season-low eight turnovers.
Landers and Ryan Mikesell led Dayton with 18 points each. Obi Toppin, limited to seven minutes in the second half because of foul trouble, and Ibi Watson each scored 15. Jalen Crutcher had 10.
“It just feels good to come in here and get a win,” Watson said, “a win that we needed, a win that a lot of fans and former players have been waiting on.”
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