Anthony Grant and Ron Hunter may have set a new standard for coaching hugs before their matchup at UD Arena.
Grant and Hunter embraced like guys who have known each for more than 30 years. They first faced off as players: Grant with the Dayton Flyers and Hunter with Miami University. Now they've coached against each other twice with Grant winning one game against Hunter and Georgia State when he was the head coach at Alabama and a second game Saturday in Dayton.
Hunter's Panthers proved every bit as tough as Grant expected, rallying again and again before finally running out of steam in overtime. Dayton evened its record at 5-5 with an 88-83 victory.
"I'm happy to get the win tonight," Grant said. "I told the guys after the game I was happy for each one of them individually and for our team collectively. We battled. It was a game that went back and forth. Our guys had to go through some adversity and persevere. We stuck together and found a way to get enough stops and make enough free throws to pull out the victory."
Here are five takeaways from the 10th of 12 non-conference games Dayton will play before starting Atlantic 10 Conference play Dec. 30:
1. Josh Cunningham played at a high level: The redshirt junior forward Cunningham scored a career-high 29 points on 8-of-9 shooting. He made 13 of 17 free throws. He grabbed 18 rebounds.
Cunningham continued a dominant stretch of play that has seen him make 30 of 32 shots from the field. His field-goal percentage stands at 73.3 percent (63 of 86). He’s averaging 16.8 points and 10.6 rebounds. He had a double-double at halftime in this game: 15 points and 13 rebounds.
“His consistency is a great example to all the guys on our team, especially the younger guys,” Grant said. “I think any young man that has a chance to come out and watch him play, the way he competes, his maturity on the floor, the way he carries himself, his competitive character is really what it’s all about. He’s as good a competitor as I’ve been around.”
2. John Crosby returned to the starting lineup: The junior point guard lost his starting job to freshman Jalen Crutcher after the first six games. He played a total of 15 minutes against Auburn and Mississippi State. Now Crosby is again running the show and earning major minutes while Crutcher comes off the bench.
Crosby played 31 minutes to Crutcher's 13 in this game. Crosby had 11 points, seven assists and no turnovers. His no-look pass to Cunningham led to a dunk with 2:47 left in overtime after Georgia State had grabbed a 78-75 lead. Crosby also had the assist on the most important shot in overtime, a 3-pointer by Jordan Davis, who extended Dayton's lead to 82-78 with 1:09 to play.
"It's great to see that," Grant said. "I thought he did a really good job of running our team and doing the things we need him to do to help us."
3. The zone defense caused problems for Dayton: The Flyers made 10 of 32 3-pointers. They didn't plan to take that many shots from long range. The Flyers blew 10-point leads in both halves in part because of Georgia State's defense.
"The different defenses they threw at us from the 2-3 matchup to the 1-3-1 zone to the 3-2 matchup, they kept us thinking and kept us off balance in terms of what their plan of attack was," Grant said. "We had some lulls there because of their ability to change defense and be effective and take away some things we were having success with early."
4. Georgia State's star hit a big shot: Point guard D'Marcus Simonds sent the game to overtime by making a shot over Dayton's Darrell Davis with 2.3 seconds left.
"It was tough," Davis said. "He just made the shot. I couldn't do anything about it. He's a good player."
5. Foul trouble hurt Georgia State: Simonds picked up his fourth foul in the opening minute of the second half and didn't return to the game until the 9:04 mark. Another starter, Malik Benlevi, also battled foul trouble. He picked up three fouls in a 20-second span early in the second half.
The Chaminade Julienne graduate Hunter, whose team fell to 7-4, praised his team's effort despite the loss.
"I'm proud of my kids," he said. "That's a tough environment to play in. That's the best Dayton's played all year. We took their best shot, got down 10, got it to overtime. I'm happy with the way our kids played."