By HAL McCOY
If the University of Dayton basketball team scanned the statistics of Grambling State’s early-season games, they might have entered Monday’s night’s game at UD Arena with some trepidation.
Early in the season Grambling scored 145 points in one game and 102 in another. But the 145 came against a school called Ecclesia College and the 102 came against East Texas Baptist.
If they checked Grambling’s more recent scores they discovered the Tigers were blown out by San Jose State, Oregon State and Marquette.
And the Flyers made certain they were in the San Jose State, Oregon State and Marquette category, hanging an 81-53 lambasting on the Tigers, coached by former Central State player and coach Donte Jackson.
On Saturday in Chicago, the Flyers built a 19-5 lead over Colorado, but lost in overtime, 78-76.
On Monday, the Flyers built a 19-6 lead over Grambling and kept building because, well, Grambling is not Colorado.
The Flyers did it with one of their best players sitting out the game. Jalen Crutcher, who hit the floor hard in Chicago, did not play.
That gave Ibi Watson his first chance to start and the transfer from Michigan took full advantage. He scored 17 points in the first half as the Flyers led at intermission, 40-22.
The Flyers, employing a zone, held the Tigers to 27 per cent shooting in the first half that included 0 for 11 from three-point territory.
After losing in overtime to Colorado, the 10-and-2 Flyers fell from 13th to 18th in the Associated Press rankings, but used Grambling as a foil to add to their resume.
They held the Tigers to 27 points below their season scoring average of 80 points and held Grambling to 39 per cent shooting, 2 for 19 from three-point country.
The score was 6-6 when the Flyers took away any thoughts Grambling had of pulling a stunner. UD went on a 13-0 run to grab that 19-6 lead and never even glanced over their shoulders after that.
Watson scored seven of those 13 points en route to his 17 in the first 20 minutes. Rodney Chatman complemented Watson with 12 in the first half.
The Flyers expanded their lead to 20 early in the second half, 44-24, then took a brief rest and Grambling worked its way back to within 10, 52-42 with 10 minutes left.
And it was still 10, 54-44, with eight minutes left when Watson hit a corner three for a career-high 22 points and a 57-47 Flyers lead.
Watson grabbed a Grambling missed shot and lobbed a pass under to Jordy Tshimanga for a basketball and a foul, a three-point play that pushed the Flyers back to 60-44.
The lead was stretched to 21 when Watson buried a three from downtown Dayton and was knocked to the floor. He completed the four-point play with a free throw.
With Crutcher out, both Watson and Chatman charged to the forefront with Watson scoring a career-best 30 and Chatman scoring a career-best 17 with six assists.
Crutcher is UD’s assist leader, but the Flyers didn’t falter, producing 19 assists as they continue to lead the nation in assists per game.
After Watson hit 30 with two free throws with 2:20 left, he was taken out to a standing ovation from the Flyer Faithful.
Grambling beat Ecclesia, 145-52, which piqued some interest in just who Ecclesia is. As of Monday, the small Christian work college in Springdale, Ark., was 2-and-14.
In its first three games, Ecclesia gave up 107, 108 and 104 points. And the Royals gave up more than 100 points in nine of their 14 losses.
Unfortunately, or is it fortunately, Ecclesia is not on Dayton’s schedule.