La Salle coach: Dayton ‘might be one of the best teams in the country’

Flyers hand Explorers most lopsided loss of the season

About 200 fans of the Dayton Flyers visited Tom Gola Arena on Thursday night. They were brave souls. Their team had lost four straight games at La Salle.

» PHOTOS: Flyers vs. Explorers

Good Dayton teams had lost to average or poor La Salle teams. For whatever reason, La Salle had Dayton’s number in Philadelphia — at least until the first game of 2020.

La Salle (9-4) entered the game with three losses to Penn, Temple and Villanova by a combined 32 points. Dayton beat the Explorers 84-58. It was La Salle's worst loss since a 77-39 defeat at UD on Senior Night last March.

“All credit goes to Dayton,” said second-year La Salle coach Ashley Howard. “They’re a really good team. Great chemistry. They play with great pace. Until you see it live, you don’t really get a feel for it. It’s hard to simulate. We had some scoring issues early in the game that really just affected our fight. I just felt like midway through the first half, we lost our fight once we couldn’t generate easy offense, and that’s all Dayton.”

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

La Salle trailed 14-12 when Dayton began a 6-0 run. After one basket by La Salle, Dayton then ran off 18 straight points.

“They do a great job,” Howard said. “They communicate at a high level. They have great interchangeable people. It’s not just Obi Toppin. It’s (Ryan) Mikesell, Trey Landers, (Jalen) Crutcher, Ibi Watson. Those guys are big-time players, and they’re confident and they’ve got a good thing going right now. They’re a great representation of the Atlantic 10.”

BIG RUN: Examining Dayton’s 18-0 spurt in first half

Howard called the game a reality check for his team. La Salle has two top-150 victories, judging by the Ken Pomeroy ratings: 75-64 against No. 141 Murray State and 72-70 against No. 112 Wright State.

“We played some opponents that were not at the same level as the Atlantic 10,” Howard said. “We won those games. I was afraid that we may get a little overconfident and a false sense of where we are. Today put us right back in check to understand we won these games and now we have a lot of work to keep getting better, and Dayton is really good. They might be one of the best teams in the country. They played like it tonight.”

Looking ahead: Dayton ended a four-game losing streak at Tom Gola Arena and will try to end a nine-game skid at Saint Joseph's on Sunday. The Flyers play the Hawks at Hagan Arena at 1 p.m. Saint Joseph's (3-10) lost 84-52 at Richmond in its A-10 opener Thursday.

» DECADE IN REVIEW: Best and worst of UD basketball

Philly stay: Dayton practiced at Tom Gola Arena after arriving in Philadelphia on Wednesday. Then on Thursday, they held a morning shootaround across the river in New Jersey on the campus of Rutgers-Camden.

Rising Flyers: Dayton moved from No. 9 to No. 8 in the Pomeroy ratings. It's the highest the program has ever been ranked since the ratings were first published in 2002.

Around the A-10: Duquesne (11-2) beat Saint Louis 73-59 in Pittsburgh on Thursday. Marcus Weathers scored 26 points for the Dukes. The Billikens (11-3) faded after cutting the deficit to four points with under six minutes to play.

Preseason favorite Virginia Commonwealth opened conference play with a 64-46 victory at home against Fordham (6-7). Mike’L Simms scored 14.

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