Fans sitting in the University of Richmond student section arrived to find T-shirts reading “No Fly Zone” on their seats. Many members of the Spiders baseball team ignored those shirts — not to mention the shirts they wore to the game — and greeted the No. 7 team in the country with bare chests and taunts.
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Those fans, part of a sellout crowd of 7,201 at the Robins Center, directed most of their jeering at Dayton Flyers star Obi Toppin.
“Obi sucks!” they said.
“Overrated!” they shouted.
Toppin embraced the hate, recording the fans on his phone before the game, though he said later he decided against sharing it on Instagram. He let his play do the talking, scoring 24 points in an 87-79 victory at the Robins Center.
The chants disappeared during the game as Toppin and the Flyers dominated, building a 20-point lead in the second half. Toppin dunked four times, creating at least one poster moment with a windmill slam in front of those same Richmond baseball players.
Asked if the fans’ chants motivated him, Toppin said, “For sure. Every time we’re in a hostile environment, that’s like an energy booster for us. When we hear them chanting, it brings us up and makes us play a lot harder because we know we’ve got to win to make them be quiet.”
Dayton (18-2, 7-0) improved to 4-0 in a challenging five-game stretch that continues Wednesday at Duquesne (15-4, 5-2) They have defeated four teams — Virginia Commonwealth (15-5, 5-2), Saint Louis (14-5, 3-3), St. Bonaventure (12-8, 4-3) and Richmond (15-5, 5-2) — in the top eight of the standings, and only Saint Louis played Dayton close.
Like the VCU game, which Dayton took over with a 22-0 run, and the St. Bonaventure game, which turned on a 22-5 run to end the first half, this game was decided by one big Dayton run. This time, it was a 28-6 run that started with 6:35 left in the first half and ended with 14:06 left in the second half. By that point, a 28-24 deficit had become a 52-34 lead.
Toppin scored 10 points in the run. Jalen Crutcher, who matched Toppin with 24 points, scored nine points in the stretch. Ibi Watson scored five of his 14 points in the same span.
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Dayton’s defensive effort matched its offensive efficiency as it seized control of the game. It became the fourth team this season to hold Richmond, the second-best offensive team in the A-10, under 40 percent shooting. The Spiders shot 39.1 percent in part because they missed 10 straight shots late in the first half.
Dayton had no similar slumps in this game, though it let the Spiders trim a 20-point deficit to six in the final minute.
“I’ve never seen a team who scores in spurts so much but also doesn’t have droughts that often,” Richmond coach Chris Mooney said. “That’s the most impressive thing about them. They rarely have droughts, so the spurts are that much harder to handle. That was tough. I thought at the beginning of the second half, we got some shots. We got some post play. We got some drives. We didn’t score enough right there to keep the game tension on them. Our half-court defense wasn’t bad, but they just punish you for every mistake. They’re so good on offense, and they were good on defense today, too.”
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