Guard Charlie Brown Jr. did everything well in the first 10 minutes for Saint Joseph’s on Tuesday at UD Arena except rescue basketballs stuck on the top of the backboard.
After a jump shot by Obi Toppin came to a rest there, an official handed Brown a mop with a long handle, but he couldn’t reach the ball. At that point — in a scene straight out of pickup basketball or the backyard — Hawks forward Taylor Funk threw another basketball at the stuck ball to knock it loose.
» TWENTY PHOTOS: Dayton vs. St. Joe’s
The Dayton Flyers were stuck themselves at that moment, trailing 23-15 thanks mostly to a hot start by the Atlantic 10 Conference’s top scorer, Brown, who had 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting. The deficit grew to 26-17 before Dayton’s comeback began, and it was the first of two rallies that would carry it to a 75-64 victory in front of a crowd of 12,628.
Dayton took control with a 14-0 run in the first half and regained control with a 13-2 run midway through the second half.
“Tonight probably the story of the game was it was a game of runs,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “Saint Joe’s came out and they were on fire early, and we had to make some adjustments from a defensive standpoint, but I thought our guys did a great job from the 12-minute mark of the first half to the end of the half. I thought our defense was outstanding. It allowed us to go on a run, to get some easy baskets and build a little bit of a lead. Like most teams in this league, every night you’re going to face different challenges, and St. Joe’s had another run in them in the second half.”
Here are five ways Dayton (14-7, 6-2) survived that run and equaled its win total of a year ago with 10 games left in the regular season:
1. No stoppin’ Toppin: The redshirt freshman forward scored a career-high 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting. He also grabbed 12 rebounds.
Toppin had eight points in the 14-0 run that turned a 26-17 deficit into a 31-17 lead in the first half, and he scored four straight points after the Hawks tied the game at 50 on a 3-pointer by Funk with 10:18 to play.
» ATTENDANCE MARK: UD ties arena record with eighth sellout
Since being held to a season-low three points in a 72-67 victory against Massachusetts on Jan. 13, Toppin has increased his points total in five straight games. He was a big reason Dayton outscored Saint Joseph’s 46-20 in the paint on a night when the team’s leading scorer, Josh Cunningham, was held to three points on 1-of-5 shooting.
“A day before the game when we were preparing, we knew we were going to go inside,” Toppin said. “Coach told everybody we’re going to have an advantage inside.”
2. Defensive adjustment: After his hot start, Brown scored five points in the last 34 minutes. He made his first five field-goal attempts and then made 3 of 15 the rest of the way. Grant credited freshman guard Dwayne Cohill, who scored seven points in 23 minutes, for helping hold Brown to one point below his season average.
“He really stepped up to the challenge tonight,” Grant said. “Charlie Brown is one of the more dynamic scorers we’ll face. He really made it difficult for him in terms of being locked to his hip pretty much the whole night.”
3. Free-throw success: Dayton made 12 of 15 free throws (80 percent), including 6 of 6 to clinch the game in the final 72 seconds.
The Flyers ended a seven-game stretch in which they failed to top 70 percent. They’re shooting 67.7 percent, while opponents have shot 70.8 percent against them. However, Dayton has shot 65 more free throws than its opponents and outscored them 239-204 at the line.
4. Deeper bench: This was one of the few times — probably the only time — when Dayton had more players available than its opponent. Eight Flyers saw action. None played more than 36 minutes.
Saint Joseph’s played its third straight game without Anthony Longpré (concussion) and also was without Lamarr Kimble (broken right hand) and Pierfrancesco Oliva (dislocated left knee). The Hawks used seven players. Brown and Jared Bynum each played 40 minutes.
5. Career night: Ryan Mikesell tied his career high with 21 points. It’s the second time in the last four games he has hit that total. He made 7 of 15 field goals and 3 of 8 3-pointers.
» FOLLOW THE FLYERS: All the links you need for the season in one place
Mikesell would have topped his career best if he had finished a dunk in the second half. He could only laugh about it after the game.
“What happened was I saw Trey (Landers) had that big dunk and then Obi was dunking,” Mikesell said. “I was like, ‘Let me get one.’ I took off, and it was like I ran out of gas when I went up. I should stick to what I do and make a layup.”