By HAL McCOY
With a golden opportunity under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the University of Dayton Flyers might have better spent their time Tuesday night riding the tram to the top of the Arch.
Down on Mother Earth in Chaifetz Arena, the Flyers were unfrocked by Saint Louis University, 73-60.
The Flyers arrived with a 7-and-2 record in the Atlantic-10 Conference and a four-game winning streak, placing them just a half-game out of first place.
Meanwhile, Saint Louis, the pre-season favorite to win the A-10, started the season 5-and-0 in league play, but had lost four straight. And their best player, Javon Bess, was limping on a bad ankle.
One could drop all that information from the top of The Arch because Saint Louis was armed and dangerous.
Taking complete control of the offensive boards for stick-back baskets, the Billikens leaped to a 17-4 lead and the Flyers were in scramble mode the rest of the way.
Early on, a pair of guys named French and Foreman knocked the ‘F’ off the Flyers nickname.
D.J. Foreman and Hasahn French combined four ten quick points to push Saint Louis to a 10-0 lead, six points coming off offensive rebounds.
For the game, the Billikens grabbed an unfathomable 19 offensive rebounds that led to 26 points.
And while Saint Louis was racing to that 10-0 lead, the Flyers missed their first four shots and turned it over twice.
It was a hole too deep.
The Flyers did scratch back to within seven late in the first half. They were still seven down, 36-29, early in the second half. And they were behind by nine, 40-31, before the Billikens went on an eight-point spurt to push the lead to 48-31 and the party was over.
Obi Toppin usually comes off the bench, but started this game and encountered quick foul trouble.
He had only three points until he went on an eight-point splurge, mostly from the foul line, in the last 3 1/2 minutes.
Toppin entered the game as the nation’s No. 1 field goal shooter and led the nation in dunks. He was 2 for 6 this night from the field (7 of 8 from the foul line) and had one dunk late in the game to give him 60 on the season.
Saint Louis had four players in double figures, led by Foreman with 18. Bess, the man with the bad ankle, spent considerable time on the bench with fouls, but scored 14, seven in the final three minutes to keep the Billikens unreachable to the Flyers.
Tremain Isabell added 11 and French had 10. Foreman had five offensive rebounds, Bell four and Hasahn four as the Flyers couldn’t keep the Billikens off the glass.
Josh Cunningham’s 12 points led the Flyers against a sticky, stifling Billikens defense, while Toppin had 11 and Jalen Crutcher had 10.
Saint Louis, the league’s worst free throw shooting team, went to the line 32 times and made 20. UD made 11 of 15.
As usual, the Flyers struggled from the three-point line on the road, 3 for 16, and they had only nine assists and 13 turnovers.
It all added up the Flyers leaving town with the St. Louis blues.