PHILADELPHIA (AP) — For most of the 2010s, Dayton had trouble winning in the city of Philadelphia.
In their first game of the ’20s, the 20th-ranked Flyers had no problem breaking that trend and showing what could be in store for the rest of the Atlantic 10.
Obi Toppin scored 20 points as Dayton used a big first-half run to cruise past La Salle 84-58 in its conference opener on Thursday night.
It was the first win for the Flyers (12-2, 1-0) in seven trips to the City of Brotherly Love dating back to Jan. 12, 2012, when they beat Temple. The Owls are no longer a part of the Atlantic 10. It was the first time Dayton had beaten La Salle at Tom Gola Arena since the previous season.
“Our guys were well aware of that,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “A lot of Flyer fans and a lot of alums are going to be awfully excited.”
Toppin was one of five Dayton players to score in double figures as the Flyers clamped down defensively on the Explorers, holding them without a 3-pointer until midway through the second half. They also controlled the paint, outscoring the Explorers by a 48-30 margin thanks to transition baskets that allowed the Flyers to get to the rim.
“I didn’t think we played any defense,” La Salle coach Ashley Howard said. “I thought our defense was nonexistent. Our communication was bad and we had way too many situations early in the game where we weren’t matched up. A lot of their points were in transition when they came down, moved the ball and found the open man.”
The Flyers broke the game open midway through the first half with an 18-0 run over a five-minute stretch that moved their lead to 38-14. Dayton carried a 46-24 advantage into halftime after shooting 68% (17 for 25) from the floor in the opening half.
“The key for us to is to maintain focus on the defensive end,” Grant said. “It allows us to get out there and get into transition. So it was a byproduct of what we were doing on the defensive side of the ball.”
Jalen Crutcher had 15 points, Ryan Mikesell scored 11 and Trey Landers and Ibi Watson each had 10.
Ed Croswell led La Salle (9-4, 0-1) with 14 points while Isiah Dees added 10. The Explorers struggled from the floor, shooting 35.4% (23 for 65) overall and 17.6% (3 of 17) from 3-point range.
“This was a reality check for us,” Howard said. “We played some opponents that were not at the same level as the Atlantic 10. We won those games. I was afraid that we might get a little overconfident and a false sense of where we are. Today put us right back in check to understand we have a lot of work to keep getting better, because Dayton is really good. They might be one of the best teams in the country. They played like it tonight.”
Dayton: The Flyers look like the best team in the Atlantic 10 and a potentially tough NCAA Tournament opponent.
La Salle: The Explorers have progressed noticeably in the second year under Howard. However, they are still a few steps behind the top teams in the Atlantic 10.
Dayton: Will stay in Philadelphia to play at St. Joseph’s on Sunday.
La Salle: At Fordham on Sunday.
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