By HAL McCOY
The University of Dayton picked the worst possible time to play patty-cake basketball, permitting a muscular and physical Saint Louis University team to impose its will on the Flyers.
The result was one-and done,and not really so well done, for the Flyers, a 64-55 loser in their first game in the Atlantic 10 tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
That means the Flyers can put their dancing shoes back in the box — no trip to the NCAA tournament.
They will await a call from the NIT and it wouldn’t be a stunning shock if the NIT folks paired the Flyers against Wright State in a first round game.
The Flyers knew, or should have known, going into the game against Saint Louis that it was imperative to keep the Billikens about six kilometers away from the basket because they lead the A-10 in offensive rebounds. Mission unaccomplished.
Saint Louis swarmed the offensive boards and snagged 10 in the first half to none for the Flyers. And they led UD, 11-0, in first-half second chance points.
If somebody watched the game on TV with the sound off and if the TV folks didn’t put the score on the screen, it would have seemed as if Saint Louis led at the half by 20.
Amazingly, the Flyers led, 30-29. And at one point in the first half they led by six, 21-15.
Saint Louis coach Travis Ford implemented a 1-3-1 zone in the second half and it stymied an already stagnant UD offense.
Ryan Mikesell scored as many points as a statue on this frustrating night. Zero.
Josh Cunningham and Obi Toppin, both averaging 14, each scored seven. Toppin injured his knee on a drive to the basket with 6 1/2 minutes left in the first half.
He didn’t play the remainder of the half, but limped his way gamely through the second half, but was totally ineffective.
Meanwhile, Saint Louis guard Tramaine Isabell played as if he was in his backyard playing by himself, just shooting the ball. He destroyed the Flyers with 24 points and hit several three-pointers from the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
The score was 36-all early in the second half when Saint Louis went on a 9-2 run to take a 45-38 lead. The Billikens made eight of nine shots in a short span to stretch their lead to nine, 52-43.
The Flyers, though, took themselves off the respirator with a 7-0 sprint on a driving lay-up by Jordan Davis, a three-pointer by Jalen Crutcher and a two-pointer by Crutcher.
At that point Saint Louis led by 52-50 and it looked as if the third-seeded Flyers might steal this one from the No. 6 seeded Billikens.
Saint Louis sailed away on a 10-1 run, with Javon Bess hitting two quick baskets at the end of the run for a 62-51 Billikens lead with two minutes left.
Midway through the second half, former Saint Louis star Anthony Bonner, the all-time leading scorer for the Billikens, was interviewed at courtside.
The man is now 50 but still plays in practices because the injury-riddled Billikens are short-handed and he probably said it best.
“That’s Saint Louis basketball — ugly and physical. We are imposing our will on UD,” he said.
After Saint Louis knocked off Richmond Thursday night to earn the right to play Dayton, Ford was asked about playing the Flyers and he said, “They are probably the most talented team in the league. And Obi Toppin might be the best player in the league. He is a first-round lottery pick in the NBA if he wants to do it.”
Toppin, though, was not himself in front of 50 family and friends. While Saint Louis scored easily under the basket, the Flyers and Toppin were kept away from the basket and played the game mostly passing the ball on the perimeter, unable to get it under to Toppin or Cunningham. Cunningham had only four shots.
And the Flyers were careless on offense, committing 16 turnovers that led to 22 Saint Louis points. They also were not active enough to get to the foul line, taking only six and making four. On the other side, Saint Louis, the worst free throw shooting team in the A-10 at 58 per cent, made 10 of 15.
While the Flyers were making only 7 of 22 three-points, the Billikens connected on 6 of 14, 4 for 7 by Isabell.
Supporting Isabell’s 24 was a 17-point effort by Jordan Goodwin and 15 by Javon Bess. D.J. Foreman had nine rebounds.
The Flyers were led by Crutcher with 18 and Jordan Davis had 12. Cunningham, Toppin and Mikesell each had five rebounds.
Saint Louis moves on to Saturday’s A-10 semifinals against Davidson while Dayton, 21-11, returns home to await a call from the NIT.