No. 13 Dayton soars as North Texas visits

NCAA Men's Basketball
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The Dayton train just keeps on rolling.

The Flyers beat Drake on Saturday night by 31 points in a game that seemed like it would be a solid test for coach Anthony Grant’s team.

Drake had won four straight and entered play allowing fewer than 61 points per game. The Flyers’ offense did struggle for about 10 minutes, but once Obi Toppin and Ibi Watson figured things out, the Bulldogs didn’t stand a chance.

The win helped Dayton (8-1) inch up one spot to No. 13 in Monday’s Associated Press poll. The Flyers’ only loss came in overtime to now-No. 1 Kansas in the Maui Invitational.

Next up for the Flyers is a Tuesday night visit from North Texas (4-6) in the first meeting between the schools.

Toppin and Watson combined for 39 points, and Trey Landers added 12 points, 10 boards and four assists against Drake. Six Flyers average at least 9.1 points per game.

“Anybody can have it going on any given night,” Landers told the Dayton Daily News. “That’s the thing we know about each other. … We all have different strengths. It didn’t surprise me Ibi came out hot like that.”

The Flyers enter Tuesday’s game ranked third in the country at 86.3 points per game.

“Like I said earlier this season, on any night anybody can score 20 points on this team,” Watson said. “The depth is really important.”

Watson, a transfer from Michigan, is a key depth piece, averaging 10.3 points per game off the bench.

While Dayton’s offense has been prolific all season, the Flyers’ defense also has been stellar in recent starts.

On Dec. 8, Dayton held Saint Mary’s to 33.3 percent from the field in the first half, led by 19 at intermission and won 78-68.

The defense was even better against Drake, which made only 28.6 percent of its shots for the game.

The Mean Green haven’t defeated a Top 25 team since a gallon of gasoline cost around 35 cents in 1971. Dayton will be the third ranked opponent the Mean Green will play this season. They lost by three to No. 25 VCU on Nov. 8 and by nine to No. 15 Utah State on Nov. 24.

North Texas also missed a last-second 3-point attempt and lost to Oklahoma 82-80 on Dec. 5. North Texas bounced back on Saturday to beat Little Rock as the Mean Green tied a school record by making 19 3-pointers.

Players were determined not to watch another opportunity slip through their hands.

“This team practices hard on its own,” head coach Grant McCasland told the Denton Daily Record. “It’s a matter of time before this is more normal. That is what you love about them. They were all in the gym after the game was over. When someone works this hard, eventually it will turn.”

Umoja Gibson was 7 of 10 from beyond the arc on his way to scoring a game-high 23 points. He is averaging a team-best 15.8 points per game.

“I don’t know if there’s a team in the country that works as hard as us,” said James Reese, who had missed 10 consecutive 3-point shots before draining four against Little Rock. “We all knew with our work ethic and talent that we’d start to see the results.”

–Field Level Media

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