Jalen Crutcher fell to the court midway the second half Saturday, grabbing his ankle and wincing in pain as trainer Mike Mulcahey rushed to his side. A hush fell over a sellout crowd of 13,147 at UD Arena. Everyone knows how much Dayton depends on its sophomore point guard.
“Right away, it felt really bad,” Crutcher said after the 68-64 victory against Duquesne, “but as I sat down for a while I knew I was good to go.”
Crutcher could hear the public address announcer from the locker room as Mulcahey treated him. Jordan Davis hit a game-tying jump shot just after Crutcher left the game. Dwayne Cohill converted a three-point play on the next possession to give the Flyers a 55-54 lead.
This was the type of moment coach Anthony Grant has talked about all year. A team facing adversity — losing a player who averages 35.9 minutes at the crucial moment in the game — had to overcome it.
That’s just what Dayton did. Dayton tied Duquesne 7-7 with Crutcher out of the game for three minutes, and when he returned at the 6:34 mark, he scored six of Dayton’s last 11 points, including three in the final two minutes as the Flyers broke a 64-64 tie with a game-ending 4-0 run.
Grant addressed the players after the game in the locker room in a behind-the-scenes video shared by UD on Instagram.
“They’ve got a good team,” Grant said. “You guys fought. Most importantly, you stayed together through adversity. That’s what I talk about when I tell you guys you can impact games when your shots are not falling, when you’re not doing it on the offensive end. You did that tonight. You were right there to back it up. We were right there to back it up. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what this is all about. That’s why you sacrifice and work, so you can get wins like that. That’s what I’m most proud of.”
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Dayton (15-7, 7-2) moved into a second-place tie with George Mason halfway through the Atlantic 10 Conference schedule, and a challenging stretch of games continues at 9 p.m. Tuesday when the Flyers play at Saint Louis. Here are three storylines to follow in the game:
1. Slumping Billikens: Saint Louis (14-8, 5-4) was the A-10 preseason favorite and won its first five conference games but has since lost four in a row to Duquesne, Davidson, Richmond and Rhode Island. Three of those teams rank in the top seven in the standings. The Richmond loss was the most surprising because the 12th-place Spiders (8-14, 2-7) beat the Billikens 84-81 at Saint Louis.
“We’re not in a good spot right now,” Saint Louis coach Travis Ford told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after the game. “We have to dig deep a little bit and evaluate a few things and regroup.”
2. Short-handed roster: Dayton and Saint Louis rank near the bottom of Division I in minutes played by reserves. The Flyers rank 336th in bench minutes (22.1 percent of the team’s total minutes), and the Billikens rank 313th (24.4 percent).
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Both teams use a seven-man rotation with an eighth player receiving limited minutes, if any at all. Saint Louis lost its top freshman, forward Carte’Are Gordon, who was averaging 8.9 points in 13 games, when he transferred to DePaul in January.
3. Tough at home: Saint Louis is 11-2 at home and has home victories in A-10 play against Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Saint Joseph’s. Davidson and Richmond have won at Chaifetz Arena.
Dayton lost 75-65 at Saint Louis last season but has won four of its last five games there.
“It’s always going to be a battle,” Grant said. “This league, like we’ve said, on any given night, anything can happen, especially when you go on the road. Saint Louis has a very talented team, a very tough team, a very well-coached team. We know that’ll be a great challenge for our basketball team.”