Improved Cedarville gets another chance to play Dayton on Saturday

Yellow Jackets finished 18-11 last season and were picked to finish second in G-MAC

Cedarville University men’s basketball coach Pat Estepp saw the future when his team played the Dayton Flyers a year ago in an exhibition game.

“We hung for a while against a team that I think in a month is going to be a top-25 team,” Estepp said then. “They’ve got the pieces. They’re really good.”

Dayton beat Cedarville 93-60 on Nov. 2, 2019, at UD Arena. One month later, on Dec. 2, just as Estepp predicted, Dayton entered the Associated Press top 25 at No. 19. It won 29 games last season and rose as high as No. 3, where it was ranked in the final three polls.

“You’ve got one pro in Obi Toppin and Jalen Crutcher who could be another pro,” Estepp said Monday, “and they just had unbelievable chemistry. You could just see that coming.”

Dayton entered that season with one vote in the preseason poll and didn’t earn more national respect until its runner-up finish in the Maui Invitational. It begins the 2020-21 season with no votes and won’t get many opportunities to change voters minds early this season.

The college basketball season started Wednesday. Dayton plays Cedarville, a NCAA Division II program, at 2 p.m. Saturday in an exhibition game. The Flyers then play their first regular-season game a week later against Southern Methodist at UD Arena. That’s the first of four non-conference games, though Dayton could still add games to the schedule.

Cedarville and Dayton played in front of a crowd of 13,207 last season. The crowd will number no more than 300 Saturday because of Ohio Department of Health limitations on indoor gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.

Estepp remembers the Red Scare student section talking trash to him last season, though it was so loud, he was never sure what they were saying.

“That has to be one of the top three environments in college basketball,” he said.

Just to get to Saturday, Cedarville players and coaches will have to pass three rounds of COVID-19 tests Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Their ability to conduct those tests was one reason Dayton scheduled them. Estepp said Cedarville received testing kits from the state and also a bunch from Wilberforce University.

Last season, Cedarville played Dayton close for the first six minutes. The Flyers broke open the game with a 13-2 run and led by double digits the rest of the way.

Guard Branden Maughmer led Cedarville with 13 points. Forward Conner TenHove scored 10. Maughmer, now a junior, led Cedarville with 15.0 points per game last season. TenHove, now a senior averaged 12.2. They return this season as does the team’s second-leading scorer, junior guard Quinton Green (13.1) and the team’s third-leading scorer, junior center Kollin Van Horn (12.6).

Estepp, who’s entering his 13th season, said on paper this could be Cedarville’s deepest team. It was picked to finish second in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference after finishing 18-11 overall and 13-5 in the G-MAC last season.

“I think we’re bigger,” Estepp said. “We’ve got a couple of pretty talented freshmen and a transfer point guard who gives us good depth at that spot that we didn’t have last year. We’ve got some guys who have really developed.”

One player who has made a significant jump is Jacob Drees, a 6-foot-7 forward who averaged 4.8 points as a freshman.

“He put on 20 pounds and worked really hard,” Estepp said.

Cedarville started workouts Aug. 28 and began official practices Oct. 14. Its first regular-season game will be played Dec. 3 at Ohio Dominican.

Through Monday, Cedarville had suffered no setbacks because of COVID-19, though Estepp himself had to quarantine for 14 days because he was exposed to his son, who tested positive. He still put the practice plans together and communicated with his coaches and players each day from home.

Throughout the fall, Estepp stayed in touch with Dayton assistant coach Darren Hertz. He also saw head coach Anthony Grant on Zoom calls several times because both are on the board of directors for the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Estepp told Dayton if things changed and it needed a late addition to the schedule, his team would be available and had the ability to test for COVID-19.

“When they pulled out of the South Dakota tournament, we started talking a little more,” Estepp said. “They want to get a good run in before they play SMU. They trust we’re going to do what we say we’re going to do when it comes to testing.”

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