The Dayton Flyers shredded the season-long narrative Friday, routing Virginia Commonwealth 106-79 with a record-setting shooting performance at UD Arena.
In the first half of the season, Dayton didn’t win two games in a row. It beat only one team it wasn’t supposed to beat: St. Bonaventure. It had too much youth and inexperience and not enough talent — or so it seemed.
For one night, Dayton looked as it good as it has ever looked. Even the NCAA tournament teams of the past four seasons never played this well against a team with the stature of VCU. No Dayton team had ever scored 66 points in the first half or made 17 3-pointers.
Dayton’s dominance was so unexpected, coach Anthony Grant urged everyone to keep the victory in perspective. It doesn’t mean the Flyers will shoot 62.9 percent from the field (39 of 62) and 53.1 percent from 3-point range (17 of 32) in the next game Wednesday at St. Joseph’s.
“We won one game tonight,” Grant said. “That’s all we did. The next game will bring a different challenge.”
Dayton’s two starting freshman guards played their best games. Jordan Davis scored a career-high 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting. He made 4 of 8 3-pointers. Jalen Crutcher also made 4 of 8 3-pointers. He scored 12 points and nearly recorded the first triple-double in school history, adding 10 assists and eight rebounds. He also had three assists and no turnovers.
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Grant was wary of heaping too much praise on Davis and Crutcher when he was asked if this was a sign those young players were growing up.
“Anytime you’re a freshmen, every game you go through is a brand new experience,” Grant said. “I think we’ve just got to make sure we keep this in perspective for our kids, for our fan base. We competed tonight the way we need to compete. We haven’t arrived. You’re never as good as your last game. You’re never as bad as your last game. Let’s make sure we keep it in perspective and realize who we are and what we’ve got.”
Dayton (9-8, 3-2) rose from a tie for last place with eight other teams to a tie for fourth place with VCU (11-7, 3-2) with two victories in the week. The Flyers jumped ten spots in the RPI to No. 72 and 22 spots in the Pomeroy ratings to No. 112, two spots behind VCU.
Grant needed to downplay this victory to a certain degree because of the difficult games that await next week. After playing the Hawks (7-8, 2-2) at Hagan Arena, where they haven’t won since 2000, the Flyers host the A-10’s best team, Rhode Island (12-3, 4-0), at 1 p.m. Jan. 20.
Grant, whose head coaching career began at VCU in 2006, improved to 2-1 against his former team. He split two games against the Rams when he coached Alabama. He and the Flyers will see VCU again on Feb. 10 in Richmond.
“I think it meant a lot to coach Grant to win this game,” said senior guard Darrell Davis, who scored 28 points and is averaging 20.4 points in five A-10 games, “and beating them as we beat them, coming out and making shots. We wanted to step on their necks. That was our main key. A lot of people didn’t think we were going to win this game, but we showed them tonight.”