Observations: Flyers can’t get over the hump against top teams


UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from the Man Cave watching basketball games from the Mohegan Sun Arena, wondering if all the fans decided to either stay in the casino or take a long lunch at Bobby Flay’s.

—How did the University of Dayton basketball team miss scheduling Kansas, Duke and Tennessee this season? It seems the Flyers have played every other potent and powerful team so far this season.

With a 72-67 loss to Tulsa Sunday afternoon, the Flyers are 5-and-5. The five losses have come to teams with a combined 43-6 record. And Tulsa  is the worst at 9-and-3. The other four are 34-3 — Virginia, Oklahoma, Mississippi State and Auburn.

To the Flyers, playing in the Mohegan Arena in the Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase, it must have seemed like a practice scrimmage between themselves. They are accustomed to playing in front of 13,500 fans in UD Arena.

The game in Mohegan Sun Arena was played in front of thousands of unoccupied chairs, a near-empty venue. Coaches screaming at players could be heard and the only other sounds were those of screeching sneakers on the wooden floor.

The Flyers discovered they can’t compete without their big guys, Josh Cunningham and Obi Toppin.

Cunningham picked up three fouls one minute into the second half. His replacement, Toppin, picked up his third with 13 minutes left in the game.

At the time, the Flyers led, 41-37. But with Cunningham and Toppin seated court-side, Tulsa went on a 14-2 breakaway to take a 51-43 lead and the Flyers never recovered.

The Flyers did mount a late 7-0 run, ending with a three by Jalen Crutcher with 50 seconds left, pulling the Flyers to within 68-65. And they got the ball back, but Ryan Mikesell missed a wide-open three from the corner with 12 seconds left.

Tulsa’s Curran Scott, a red-shirt junior, hit four free throws in the final 11 seconds to seal it.

The Flyers, fumbling and stumbling on the perimeter against Tulsa’s match-up zone, fell behind by 14 points in the first half as Tulsa hit five of six three-pointers. UD adjusted, taking the ball to the basket, and put on a 17-3 run late in the half to tie it, 30-30.

But in the end, the foul miseries of Cunningham and Toppin did them in, plus the fact they hit only 5 of 20 three-pointers.

—QUOTE: From former NBA star Charles Barkley: “I don’t hate anyone, at least not for more than 48 minutes, unless there is overtime.” (Could it be the Flyers are too nice? Doubt it. They do play extremely hard.)

—Watching the game before the UD-Tulsa game was purely painful. Officials called 56 fouls in the Rhode Island-West Virginia game. At least they weren’t prejudiced. They called 28 on each team before Rhode Island prevailed, 83-70. Some technical fouls were also called and, amazingly, not one was called on Bob Huggins, West Virginia’s volatile coach.

—QUOTE: From Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski: “A basketball team is like the five fingers on your hand. If you can get them together, you have a fist. That’s how I want to play.” (But is it fair if your team has ten fingers and two fists?)

—The Cleveland Browns and quarterback Baker Mayfield took another step forward Saturday night with a 17-16 squeaker-stinker win in Denver, a team to which the Browns had lost to 11 straight times.

What was so good about it was that the Browns did not play with a winning proficiency, not at all, and they won.

“We didn’t play well at all, me included,” said Mayfield. “But it was prime time, on the road, in somebody’s else’s house. If you don’t love that there is something wrong with you.”

And amazingly, going into Week 16, two games from the end of the regular season, the Browns still had a chance in the playoff picture, although that picture was very out of focus and fuzzy and they needed some miracles, which didn’t happen.

“We didn’t win on the road for a long time and we have two now and that says a lot about this team,” said Mayfield. “That’s huge. Some of the guys on this team had never won a game on the road.”

—QUOTE: From former NFL running back Emmitt Smith: “I may win and I may lose, but I’ll never be defeated.” (Has Emmitt checked the meaning of lose and defeat in the dictionary and aren’t they synonymous?)

—Is Tanner Roark going to be the only ‘significant’ pitching acquisition by the Cincinnati Reds? It looks as if Matt Harvey is fast becoming their best option.

Patrick Corbin? Gone. Nathan Eovaldi? Gone. J.A. Happ? Gone. Charlie Morton? Gone.

And now it appears that the Cleveland Indians are not interested in trading Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer. By trading Yan Gomes, Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso, the Tribe lopped $18 million off the payroll and may no longer need to ditch one of their high-powered pitchers.

—QUOTE: From former major league catcher/broadcaster Joe Garagiola: “Being traded is like celebrating your 100th birthday. It might not be the happiest occasion in the world, but consider the alternative.” (Garagiola was only traded twice and he lived to be 90.)

—Did anybody see the Eastern Washington-Maine NCAA FCS game Saturday on the red field? Eastern Washington, playing on its home field, won by 50-19, as quarterback Eric Barriere threw for 352 yards and seven touchdowns.

But, oh, that red field? It is even more distracting on TV than the blue turf on Boise State’s field. How long before the University of Oregon comes up with a chartreuse field?

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