Dayton Flyers coach Anthony Grant and his players walk to the locker room at UD Arena after shaking hands with the opposing team after most games. On Tuesday, after beating Saint Louis 53-50, they took a detour to thank the fans in the student section.
The last two seasons, Dayton has celebrated Senior Night victories with the students. This wasn’t Senior Night. Grant just thought it was time to pay tribute.
“They’ve been there all year for us,” Grant said. “It was an opportunity to say thank you after we had the postgame (TV interview) on the baseline. Usually I’m either rushing to the locker room or rushing to halfcourt to do an interview. It was an opportunity to let them know we appreciate our student section, Red Scare, really all our fans. They’re awesome every single night. It wasn’t just tonight. Our fans show up for us, and we love it. We appreciate it.”
Dayton drew a crowd of 12,577 fans, ending a streak of four straight home games with 13,000 or more fans. There were more empty seats than normal at the top of the upper level, likely because of the 9 p.m. start.
There were enough fans to make the decibel level rise when the Flyers overcame a 33-20 deficit with a 17-4 run midway through the second half. There was little doubt the crowd played a part in Dayton’s comeback. The Flyers (13-14, 7-8) improved to 11-4 at UD Arena with one home game remaining March 3 against George Washington.
That success is why Grant and the players flocked to the student section after the game.
“Coach said we’ve got to start showing them some love,” Dayton guard Trey Landers said. “We haven’t had the best season, but they continue to support us day in and day out. We just need to show our love to them after every home game.”
The fans didn’t see the most well-played game. Dayton committed eight turnovers in the first half and trailed 29-20 at halftime. The Billikens scored the first four points of the second half to take their biggest lead.
Dayton started playing better defense at that point and held Saint Louis to four points in a seven-minute stretch. While Hasahn French dominated in the post, making 10 of 15 shots and scoring 20 points, Saint Louis didn’t beat Dayton from behind the arc as it did Jan. 27 in a 75-65 victory at Chaifetz Arena.
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The Billikens made 9 of 18 3-pointers in the first game against Dayton and of 4 of 12 in this one. They shot 38.5 percent from the field in the second half after shooting 50 percent in the first half.
“I’m really proud of their guys,” Grant said. “That was an old-fashioned slugfest defensive battle. It was great to see our guys be up to the challenge. Saint Louis is a really good defensive team. We knew some of the schemes they would throw at us. We would have to be at our best to have any kind of offensive success and continuity, and tonight wasn’t one of those nights that was necessarily pretty offensively, but I loved it because our guys stepped up to the challenge from a defensive standpoint. I thought our defense won the game.”
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