By HAL McCOY
The school motto on the University of Dayton campus is: “Our home is a powerhouse.”
That motto certainly fits the school’s basketball team because the University of Dayton Flyers are a certified powerhouse.
And they seem to get better and better and better with each passing game.
Some solid evidence surfaced Thursday night in Philadelphia, which has not been The City of Brotherly Love to the Flyers.
They had lost eight straight games in Philly, hadn’t won a game there since 2011, four losses to LaSalle at Tom Gola Arena and four losses to St. Joseph’s at Hagan Arena.
The Flyers rid themselves of one demon Thursday night, totally dismantling LaSalle, 84-58, in their Atlantic 10 opener.
And the 12-2 Flyers get a chance to remove the St. Joseph’s gorilla Sunday afternoon.
LaSalle, 9-and-3 when the night began, clung close to the Flyers for six minutes and trailed by only 14-12 with 14:14 left in the first half.
Then it became a one-sided affair, almost as if the Flyers were on the court by themselves. They went on an unfathomable 24-2 runs, ballooning their lead to 38-14.
LaSalle scored only two points over a nine-minute span and when they had the courage to look at the scoreboard the Explorers were 24 points down.
And the 20th-ranked Flyers didn’t let up. By halftime they were still up 22 points, 46-24.
Obi Toppin, who dunked 10 times against North Florida on Monday, didn’t have a dunk in the first half. But he led the Flyers with 11 points and found his teammates with sharp passing over and over again.
The dunk dilemma was solved early in the second half when Toppin scored three straight baskets, two on dunks, pushing UD to a 61-32 lead.
UD built a game-high 31-point lead at 74-43 midway through the second half and coasted home. And this came against a team that lost to No. 10 Villanova by only 11 points and a team that beat Wright State, 72-70 on a neutral court.
UD shot 68 per cent from the field in the first half and completely shut down the Explorers from outside. LaSalle, who has two players shooting more than 40 per cent from the three-point line, was 0 for 5 from three in the first half.
With 20 NBA scouts stuffed into the tiny gym, Toppin was near perfection in all categories. He finished with 20 points on 7 for 9 shooting (1 for 1 from three, was 5 for 5 on the foul line, had seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. And was, as usual, total humble pie after the game
“We trust each other and we have a brotherhood on the court like no other,” he said. “We have real good coaches and real good players and on offense we are amazing.”
Jalen Crutcher backed up Toppin with 15 points, Ryan Mikesell was five for six from the field for 11 points and Trey Landers added 10 points.
The Flyers held LaSalle’s leading scorer, Isiah Deas, to 10 points and he didn’t score his first points until 15 1/2 minutes were left in the game and UD led, 61-32.
UD made 31 of 58 shots (5 for 15 from three), 53.4 per cent, while hold LaSalle to 23 of 66 (34.8 per cent) and just 3 of 17 from three.
As the score indicates, the game was total domination by the Flyers. They outscored LaSalle in the paint, 48-30 and outscored them off turnovers, 29-16.
Asked what he expected at the end of the season, Toppin smiled broadly and said, “National championship.”
The Flyer continue to be rated as the most efficient offensive team in the country and they are second in the nation in assists per game. They had 22 assists Thursday.
The Flyers will stay in Philadelphia the next three days and if they don’t overstuff themselves on Philly cheese steaks they should be heavily favored Sunday against St. Joseph’s.