Former Dayton Flyers forward Keith Waleskowski has his name on a banner inside the Lahaina Civic Center. He won the Maui Invitational MVP award in 2003 and shares space on that banner with players like Glen Rice, Bobby Hurley, Anfernee Hardaway and Kemba Walker — great college basketball players from years past.
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Obi Toppin took a big step toward joining that list with his performance Monday in Dayton’s 80-61 first-round victory against Georgia. Toppin scored 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting in 26 minutes. He’ll get his chance to show his talents again when Dayton (4-0) plays Virginia Tech (6-0) in the semifinals at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The Hokies upset No. 3 Michigan State 71-66 in the second game Monday.
Toppin was at his best in the first four minutes, scoring 12 points as Dayton opened the game with a 14-2 run.
» PHOTOS: Lahaina Civic Center
“Oh, it was important,” Toppin said of that stretch. “Very important. The team was just finding me in the post. Before the game, we talked about throwing the ball in the post and working out of there because our offense is based off that. When we got the ball in the post. a lot of things got opened up, and I was able to get buckets off of there.”
Watching from the bench before he got into the game for the first time this season, center Jordy Tshimanga said, “That was amazing. I had popcorn.”
Georgia did a better job defending Toppin after that opening stretch, but he had put his stamp on the game. Later, he made the Dayton-dominated crowd erupt by making a 3-pointer with 7:48 to play, pushing Dayton’s lead to 22 points.
Toppin has averaged 24 points per game in the first four games. He’s shooting 72.5 percent (37 of 51) from the floor and has made 5 of 10 3-pointers and 17 of 22 free throws (77.3 percent).
There’s little doubt it’s one of the best four-game stretches to start a season in Dayton basketball history.
“We knew it was going to be an up-and-down game going back and forth,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said, “and so we wanted to try to establish a post presence early. Obi did a good job of making himself available. His teammates did a good job of finding him, and he was able to get some conversions going and we kind of got in a rhythm there. It t was great to see our guys understanding where we had an advantage early. We were able to take advantage of that.”
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