Obi Toppin emerged from the locker room at Rose Hill Gym to loud cheers. A large group of family members, including his parents, and friends from his hometown of Ossining, N.Y., drove the 25 miles south to Fordham to see Toppin and the Dayton Flyers on Saturday, and neither disappointed.
Toppin scored 19 points — his best performance in seven Atlantic 10 Conference games — as Dayton (13-7, 5-2) routed Fordham 75-52 to get back on track after a 67-63 loss at home Wednesday to George Mason.
Toppin spent most of the time between conducting a postgame interview and boarding the Dayton bus posing for photos and reconnecting with his personal fan section. He didn’t need extra incentive because Dayton needed this victory, but it helped nonetheless.
“Them being in the stands was amazing,” Toppin said. “They hadn’t seen me play in a long time.”
Toppin was one reason there might have been as many Dayton fans at the game as Fordham fans. The crowd of 3,200 was Fordham’s biggest of the season. Here are five more things to know about Dayton’s 20th game:
1. Strong performance: Toppin, a redshirt freshman forward, made 7 of 11 shots from the field, dunking twice, and grabbed nine rebounds. He made 5 of 5 field goals in the last two games and made his first shot in this game. His field-goal percentage stands at 68.4. He ranked fourth in the country entering the game.
“For a freshman to walk into this environment with a lot of family and friends and to be able to come out with a good game, it’s a testament to who he is,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said.
2. Important contribution: Grant also praised the ability of freshman forward Frankie Policelli, who’s from New Hartford, N.Y., and attended Long Island Lutheran High School, to play well in his home state.
» TWENTY PHOTOS: Dayton vs. Fordham
Policelli made two 3-pointers in a 90-second span in the first half. The shots were part of a 14-0 run by Dayton, which turned an early 9-6 deficit into a 20-9 lead at the 8:22 mark. Policelli finished with a career-high eight points on 3-of-9 shooting in 18 minutes.
“It felt good,” Policelli said. “I played better than I have been playing.”
3. Rare breather: Fordham (9-11, 0-7) entered the game tied for last place with Massachusetts, but it had played better since a 76-51 loss to VCU in its conference opener. Fordham lost to Duquesne, St. Bonaventure, Saint Louis, George Mason and La Salle by an average of four points.
Dayton, too, had known nothing but close games in recent weeks. This was its first double-digit victory since it routed Richmond 72-48 in its first A-10 game.
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Dayton had command of the game once it started taking care of the ball. It had turnovers on six straight possessions after taking a 6-3 lead. Then it committed two turnovers in the second half after having 10 in the first.
“We calmed ourselves down,” Grant said, “stayed composed and finished with 18 assists and a comfortable win.”
4. Defensive effort: Fordham had the second-worst offense in A-10 play (62.5 points per game) entering this game. Dayton held Fordham to its worst shooting effort of the season (18 of 61, 29.5 percent).
“Our guys did a good job locking into what we needed to do from a scouting-report standpoint,” Grant said. “I thought we got great efforts all the way throughout the roster.”
5. Big picture: Dayton won its third A-10 road game in four tries after winning once in nine tries a year ago.
As of late Saturday afternoon, it stood in a four-way tie for second place with Virginia Commonwealth, Duquesne and Saint Louis, one game back of Davidson and George Mason (both 6-1).
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Beating Fordham won’t erase the sting of blowing leads late in losses to VCU and George Mason, but it helps the Flyers during a stretch in which they can’t afford any more losses. They have winnable home games coming up against St. Joseph’s and Duquesne and then a tough five-game stretch with road games against Saint Louis, Rhode Island and Davidson and home games against VCU and Saint Louis.
“We were able to play well on both ends,” said Dayton forward Josh Cunningham, who scored 15 points. “I think what really helped us out was on the defensive end. We really got after it.”