By HAL McCOY
There once was a team, back in the early 1980s, that called itself Phi Slama Jama. It was the University of Houston and the fraternity nickname came from the fact that the team dunked, dunked, dunked and dunked some more.
On Monday night in UD Arena, the University of Dayton Flyers concocted their own version of Phi Slama Jama during a 77-59 victory over the University of North Florida.
Obi Toppin dunked 10 times. Yes, 10. T-e-n. Guard Ryan Mikesell, who seldom dunks, dunked twice. Trey Landers, taking a lob pass from Toppin, dunked.
Toppin finished with a career-high 31 points. And the amazing thing about it was that he dunked in the first minute of the game.
Then he went scoreless until only two minutes were left in the half. Then he scored the final six points of the first half, two on dunks, as the Flyers built a 42-28 lead.
The second half was Toppin Time. He scored 20 of his 31 in the second half, nearly all of them on dunks off lob passes from his observant teammates.
And how did this all unfold?
“We knew the defense they were going to run,” said Toppin. “It was open in the post. They were helping in the post and my teammates kept finding me down there and I scored off of that.”
And scored and scored and scored.
So, the Flyers finished their pre-conference schedule 11-and-2, putting together perhaps their best all-around game so far this season.
They were in constant motion, both offensively and defensively. The Northern Florida Ospreys are birds of treys.
They came into the game leading the nation averaging 13 made three-pointers a game. And they lead the nation in three-point attempts per gamer with 34.
The hustling and bustling Flyers protected the three-point line as if was their personal property, pushing the Ospreys away from it and forcing them to force bad shots.
North Florida was 6 for 15 at halftime from trey territory. And the Flyers harassed them into 13 first-half points, turning steals into easy baskets. And they outscored North Florida 20-0 on fast break points.
And there was significance to UD’s 18-point win. North Florida had lost five games to Top 60 teams — Florida, Iowa, Creighton, Florida State and Syracuse.
Dayton’s 18-point margin is the biggest. The Ospreys lost to Florida by 15, to Iowa by 15, to Creighton by nine, to Florida State by 17 and to Syracuse by 12.
Now the Flyers turn their attention to Atlantic 10 play with two games in Philadelphia over the next six days — LaSalle on Thursday and St. Joseph’s on Sunday.
“Our team has been through so much and we worked so hard during our non-conference games,” said Toppin. “Now the conference time has come and we’re ready. We can’t wait.”
Trey Landers chipped in with 15 points, Jalen Crutcher added 11 and Ryan Mikesell had nine. Starter Rodney Chatman scored only four, but he was Toppin’s best friend with nine assists.
No North Florida player hit his average. Carter Hendricksen, averaging nearly 17, led the Ospreys with 12. Ivan Gandia-Ross had 10 and Wajid Aminu had 10.
The team numbers said it all.
The Flyers outscored North Florida on fast breaks, 22-1. The outscored them on points off turnovers, 21-8 (North Florida turned it over 21 times) and Flyers outscored the Ospreys in the paint, 52-18. Toppin’s 31 points all had paint stains.
Toppin, a red shirt sophomore, has played less than a season-and-a-half and owns 128 dunks. If he played for that Houston team, he would be president of Phi Slama Jama.