Dayton Flyers point guard Jalen Crutcher exited the locker room and, for one of the few times all night, took a seat. A trainer attached bags of ice to each of his knees and secured them in place with plastic wrap.
Crutcher has played 24 games in his freshman season. He's averaging 35.4 minutes per game in Atlantic 10 play, and that number has risen in recent weeks. He played 44 of 45 minutes Saturday in an 88-84 overtime loss to Virginia Commonwealth at the Siegel Center.
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Getting treatment and staying healthy has been and will be a key factor in the success of Crutcher, who’s starting to feel like a veteran and often playing like one. Comparisons to Scoochie Smith, Dayton’s starting point guard the past three seasons, were inevitable. Now they are apt.
“I kind of feel like I’ve been here a long time already,” Crutcher said. “I’m just trying to keep learning from the older guys.”
Crutcher had another strong all-around offensive game, scoring 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting and adding seven rebounds and eight assists. He made two 3-pointers during the 16-1 run by Dayton in the last 3:13 and had the assist of the night, a lob pass to Josh Cunningham, who sent the game to overtime with a game-tying layup with 0.1 secons remaining.
Crutcher had two turnovers, and considering how much he handled the ball and how much some of his teammates struggled with turnovers, that was a good number against VCU’s full-court pressure defense. Dayton committed 19 turnovers. Senior Darrell Davis had seven of them.
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Dayton’s other freshman starter, guard Jordan Davis, also performed well for the second straight game. He had 19 points on 6-of-14 shooting. He made 4 of 9 3-pointers. He had four assists, four rebounds and one turnover in 42 minutes. Davis had five points in the rally that helped Dayton force overtime.
Dayton coach Anthony Grant praised Crutcher and Davis in the postgame press conference.
“With every game, (Crutcher) continues to get much more comfortable and gain confidence,” Grant said. “I thought Jordan Davis as well did a really good job of staying with it. There were some opportunities for young guys. When you have adversity hit, how do you handle that? I thought Jordan did a nice job of bouncing back, and I thought Jalen did a nice job coming into this environment.”
On the other hand, the list of players Grant can praise is short. He played seven Flyers against the Rams. The five Dayton starters played between 37 and 44 minutes and produced all but three of the points and all but one of the rebounds.
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John Crosby played five minutes in the first half, turned the ball over three times and didn’t play again. Matej Svoboda had three points and four fouls in 16 minutes.
Xeyrius Williams and Kostas Antetokounmpo didn’t see the court. That was the biggest mystery, and it’s one Grant didn’t shed much light on after the game. His strategy throughout Atlantic 10 play has been to ride the starters as long as possible.
“Just coach’s decision,” Grant said of why Williams and Antetokounmpo didn’t play. “I just felt like the guys on the floor were doing a good job. Just my decision.”
Williams missed the last game because he was sick, Grant said, but was available for this one. Antetokounmpo has seen limited time in recent weeks, but this was the first time he didn’t play since the last VCU game, which he missed because of an illness.
While Dayton’s starters rallied in the final minutes, tired legs hurt them earlier in the half. VCU went on a 16-6 run to push its lead to 78-63 at the 3:29 mark. Turnovers and a failure to finish shots hurt Dayton during that stretch.
“I thought we were tired,” Grant said. “I tried to use some timeouts to help us regroup, and our guys were able to find that second wind, but I thought (fatigue) was a little bit of a factor, being honest.”
Dayton at George Mason, 7 p.m., Spectrum Sports, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO
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