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Published: Saturday, November 02, 2019 @ 10:59 PM
Updated: Saturday, November 02, 2019 @ 10:59 PM
DAYTON — Six months without basketball gave the Dayton Flyers, the media and their fans a chance to build hype around the 2019-20 season.
» PHOTOS: Dayton vs. Cedarville
Coach Anthony Grant said in June there was “definitely cause for excitement.” Redshirt sophomore forward Obi Toppin talked in July about the team competing on “the highest stage.” In September, former Flyer Brooks Hall, now an analyst on WHIO Radio, Dayton “should easily be a top-25 team, maybe top 15.”
That kind of talk may continue in the weeks and months ahead, but on Saturday, the Flyers finally got a chance to let their play do the talking and show what they’ve been building since March. They did nothing to slow the hype and everything to add to it as four players making their UD Arena debuts combined to score 47 points in a 93-60 exhibition victory against Division II Cedarville University.
“What we talked about coming into this game was trying to continue to build the habits we need, especially on the defensive end,” said Grant, who’s entering his third season as Dayton’s head coach. “We saw a lot of good things tonight. I thought defense created offense. I thought our guys did a good job sharing the basketball.”
Here are four early impressions of the Flyers:
1. The transfers were ready for the spotlight: Michigan transfer Ibi Watson scored 13 of his team-high 17 points in the first half. He made 4 of 6 3-pointers.
Rodney Chatman, a transfer from Chattanooga who sat next to Watson on the bench at home games all last season, scored 12 points and made 4 of 5 3-pointers.
Watson and Chatman both arrived at Dayton in the spring of 2018 but had never played in front of the Flyer Faithful until Saturday. They sat on the bench at home games last season and practiced with the team but did not travel to road games.
»UD DONATION: Student-athletes present check to Dayton Foundation
“It felt great,” Watson said. “Me and Rod were talking last year about how it was going to be tough to sit out a whole year, but it really flew by. We definitely appreciate the fan support all of last year.”
Chase Johnson, who left Florida last December and enrolled at UD in January, made 4 of 5 shots and scored eight points.
Only Nebraska transfer Jordy Tshimanga didn’t play. He is recovering from a knee injury and said he could return to practice in a week and a half.
2. There were surprises in the starting lineup: Fans tried to guess the starting lineup throughout the offseason. The only sure things seemed to be Obi Toppin, Ryan Mikesell and Jalen Crutcher, the team’s top three returning scorers.
Few predicted Johnson and Chatman joining that group, but they did in the exhibition game. Time will tell if Grant will stick with that lineup. The regular season begins at 7 p.m. Saturday against Indiana State.
“We’ve got a lot of difference pieces that we can use,” Grant said. “The coach-speak will say it’s really not about who starts the game. Every night is going to bring a different challenge. I’m not overly focused on that as a coach. I don’t think that’s really that big a deal. This is just the beginning. The one thing I can probably guarantee is there will be change throughout the season. It always happens.”
3. Dayton played two point guards in the opening minutes: Dayton did not have an experienced backup point guard behind Crutcher last season, and he played heavy minutes. Chatman had a similar role in his sophomore season at Chattanooga. Now Dayton has two point guards used to playing big roles.
» UD FOOTBALL: Flyers win on the road
In the exhibition game, Chatman brought the ball up the court in the first possessions, but then Dayton switched to Crutcher. Chatman had three assists in 16 minutes. Crutcher had eight points and four assists in 21 minutes.
“We complement each other well,” Chatman said. “Coach Grant sees that. Me and Jalen know that. We help each other. I know last year he had the ball a lot. this year, we can take a little bit of a load off his hands, and we play together well.”
4. The team’s one freshman was a pleasant surprise: Moulaye Sissoko, a 6-foot-9 center from Mali, scored 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting and led the team with nine rebounds. He played 19 minutes.
Indiana State at Dayton, 7 p.m., Spectrum News One, AM 1290 and News 95.7 WHIO