By HAL McCOY
The Saint Louis University basketball team wears an imprint of the Gateway Arch on their white home uniforms, a landmark on the banks of the Mississippi River that is 630 feet tall.
And with 7:40 left in a basketball game at Chaifetz Arena Friday night, the University of Dayton Flyers trailed Saint Louis by 13 points.
It looked as if it would be easier for the Flyers to trudge up the steps to the top of the Gateway Arch than to come back and win this game.
But, defying all odds against a sold out hostile crowd and a highly motivated Saint Louis team, the Flyers did it in magnificent fashion, 78-76, in overtime.
It ended with one-tenth of a second remaining in overtime on an improbable three-point basket.
And if you don’t know who performed that rescue, you haven’t been paying attention to UD basketball the past couple of years.
His name is Jalen Crutcher, but for obvious reasons, his teammates call him Jalen Clutcher. Clutch is the name and winning plays is his game.
Yuri Collins made two free throws with six seconds left to give Saint Louis a 76-75 lead and it looked as if the Flyers were neck deep in the middle of the Mississippi.
Crutcher, though, threw his entire team life vests. He took the inbounds pass. On the sidelines, UD coach Anthony Grant was screaming for a time out. But nobody heard him in the cacophony.
Crutcher swooped up the court until he got near the three-point line and took a bump from Demarius Jacobs that knocked him off balance to his left.
Unaffected, Crutcher righted himself and let fly from about 25 feet, well beyond the line. The ball nestled in the twine with the clock showing 0:00.01.
And the Flyers had a big, big win in a game in which they played most of the game as if they were not interested in winning.
Instead, the 13th-ranked Flyers sped to 16-and-2 overall and 5-and-0 in the Atlantic 10 Conference. And the road win came against the A-10’s defending tournament champions and a team that was 9-and-0 at home.
Crutcher’s game-ending three was the eye-popper, but the entire five-minute overtime session belonged to the 6-foot-1 junior point guard from Memphis, Grant’s first recruit.
The Flyers trailed, 72-71, when Crutcher drove for the hoop and missed at 2:25. And it was still 72-71 with 49 seconds left when Crutcher went to the foul line and sank two free throws.
So, the Flyers led 73-72, with 49 seconds left. But Javonte Perkins drove for a basket with 33 seconds left and Saint Louis was back in command, 74-73.
Alas, Crutcher stepped to the foul line again at 0:71 and buried two more freebies for a 75-74 UD lead.
All looked lost for the Flyers, though, when Yuri Collins sank his two free throws with six seconds left to put the Flyers down a point again.
Then, it was Jalen Crutcher again to the rescue with his three-pointer. Crutcher scored seven of UD’s nine points in overtime.
And he finished with 21 points as the Flyers won their first game in overtime this season. Their two defeats this year were both in overtime to Kansas and Colorado.
The Flyers won this one despite playing their worst first half of the season. They scored a season’s worst 25 points in the first 20 minutes and were 1 for 10 from three-point land.
And they won it despite falling behind in the second half by 13 points, 55-42, with 7:40 left.
It was Ibi Watson, the off-the-bench scoring machine, who brought the Flyers back. He scored eight quick points and just like that UD was within three at 58-55.
When it was 55-42, UD scored eight points in 30 seconds to cut that lead to 55-50. Watson drove for a basket, hit a three and Crutcher hit a three in that half-a-minute blast.
Obi Toppin struggled mightily in the first half, which meant the Flyers struggled, too, as the Billikens put everybody but the student body on Toppin when he had the ball.
He had only four points at halftime on 2 for 11 shooting, including a missed dunk and 1 for 3 on three-point tries and UD trailed by eight, 33-25..
But he came around in the second half — 5 for 5, including two threes, and ripped down 10 rebounds en route to 20 points. And the Flyers needed all those rebounds because they were outboarded by the Billikens, 42-30.
After the 2 for 11 from beyond the line in the first half, the Flyers hit 7 for 14 in the second half, including Crutcher’s shot that will be part of his UD lore.
In addition to the 21 from Crutcher and 20 from Toppin, Watson came off the chairs to score 17 and Trey Landers added 14.
Javonte Perkins led Saint Louis with 25 and behemoth-beast Hasahn French snagged 17 rebounds and added 16 points. Jordan Goodwin, averaging 25.5 points a game, scored only 15.
The major difference on this day, other than Jalen Crutcher, was the comical performance of Saint Louis at the foul line. Perkins was 7 for 9, but the rest of the Billikens were 13 for 28. French was 4 for 10 and actually shot two air balls on free throws.
UD’s next challenge is at home against St. Bonaventure Wednesday night. The Bonnies were blasted badly Saturday afternoon at VCU, a team the Flyers beat badly at home last week. St. Bonaventure was 4-and-0 in the Atlantic 10 until VCU happened.