St. Joseph’s Ryan Daly knocked down a three to end the first half against Dayton, and Hagan Arena exploded with cheers as the Hawks tied the 20th-ranked Flyers, 33-33. It was a combination of surprise and excitement.
The ingredients seemed to be in place for a monumental upset: Cameron Brown and Myles Douglas were stepping up to take the scoring pressure off Daly, and Dayton’s best player, Obi Toppin, was dealing with foul trouble. But St. Joseph’s (3-11, 0-2 Atlantic 10) had no answers for Dayton (13-2, 2-0) in the second half in an 80-67 defeat.
Dayton went from shooting 35.3% in the first half to 55.6% in the second. Daly’s strong first half was neutralized in the second. St. Joe’s moved within one before the Flyers went on a 9-0 run with 8 minutes, 41 seconds left in the second half. The Hawks would never get it back to a one-possession game.
Daly delivered a 15-point, 11-rebound double-double in the first half and finished with 22 points and 12 boards. Brown and Douglas combined to go 7 for 10 from three and scored 16 and 15 points, respectively.
The Hawks left a lot of points at the free-throw line, going 13 for 22. Dayton finished 17 of 18 from the line.
Toppin went to the bench after his fourth foul with 14:40 left in the second half. He returned with 2:52 remaining in the game. Dayton was a plus-five in his absence. Without Toppin, the Flyers constantly switched up their defense, which made it difficult for the Hawks’ offense. Toppin finished with 15 points, Ryan Mikesell and Trey Landers each scored 18 points for Dayton.
“I thought our guys did a great job on Toppin,” St. Joseph’s coach Billy Lange said. “What makes them a Final Four-caliber team is their commitment to Dayton basketball is outstanding. Then, you get them on the court and they’ve got a lot of weapons.”
“We missed huge free throws," Lange said. "I thought those missed free throws were more critical than their adjustment when Toppin went out.”
“This team, we have a lot of work to do here to keep getting better, but they don’t quit,” Lange said. “Sometimes they hang their heads because they want to win so bad, and I thought tonight they didn’t.”
St. Joe’s lost its last game by 32 points to Richmond, but the Hawks played motivated against Dayton. The Hawks proved that they’ll be capable of upsetting top teams in the Atlantic 10. For every performance like the one against Richmond, the Hawks have had games like Dayton, UConn (96-87 win), and Florida (70-62 loss).
Game experience is the best teacher, and this is one should help Brown. He played with confidence and could be another weapon for the Hawks as a scorer in the Atlantic 10.