No. 19 Dayton, Saint Mary’s will be revealing matchup
No. 19 Dayton and Saint Mary’s tangle Sunday in the Air Force Reserve Jerry Colangelo Classic in Phoenix, and it should be a good measure of where the two quality teams stand.
The Flyers are second in the nation in scoring, averaging 88.7 points per game and first in assists with 21. The Gaels are a top-30 team, allowing just 60 points a game.
Dayton has cracked the Top 25 for the first time in four years. The only blemish on the 6-1 Flyers’ mark is an overtime loss to Kansas in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.
Saint Mary’s (9-1) has won eight straight but is not in the Top 25 after being ranked No. 20 in the preseason.
Sunday’s game should be a good barometer for both teams.
“We’re all kind of excited some other people realize how good we are, but we’re looking to build on it. Nobody on the team’s satisfied,” junior guard Ibi Watson told the Dayton Daily News.
Watson averages 8.9 points per game and is shooting a team-high 45.5 percent from 3-point range.
The Flyers’ “lights-out shooter” is a perfect complement to Obi Toppin, who some believe will be a Top-5 pick in the next NBA draft.
The sophomore forward leads the team in scoring at 22.1 points per game and is making 67 percent of his shots. The focal point of the Dayton offense has yet to be stopped this season.
“Georgia and Virginia Tech looked helpless in Maui,” Bleacher Report said. “He’s returned a more decisive scorer and passer from the post and a confident 3-point shooter. Between his power and athleticism, back-to-the-basket game and projectable jump shot, Toppin has quickly developed into one of the draft’s most convincing offensive big men.”
Playing a seasoned Gaels squad will provide a solid challenge for Toppin and the Flyers. Saint Mary’s returned the nucleus of a team that lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season.
Toppin probably will be matched up against Malik Fitts, who at 6-foot-8 can shoot from outside as well (40 percent from 3-point range.)
Matthias Tass is another defensive presence in the paint and has recorded 15 blocks.
Since an early-season upset to Winthrop, only one team, No. 15 Utah State, scored more than 70 points. Opponents are making just 43 percent of their field-goal attempts.
The Gaels showed how suffocating their defense can be in Thursday’s win against Northern Illinois holding the Huskies to 49 points on just 39 percent shooting.
“We were locked in and our intensity was good to start the game,” assistant coach Marcus Schroeder explained. “Tass had four blocks and was strong defensively for us as well. Team-wise, we were helping each other, we had good rotation, we played hard and we got after them.”
Added Tass: “This game was definitely one of our best defensive games of the season. We did a good job in keeping their top guy guarded and we were able to lock down defensively.”
Jordan Ford leads the Gaels in scoring at 20.2 points per game, and it will be up to Dayton’s Trey Landers to help slow down Ford.
Flyers coach Anthony Grant is confident Landers will rise to the occasion.
“I thought Trey’s leadership was really vital to us,” Grant said after Dayton beat Houston Baptist on Tuesday. “He did a great job of leading through some difficulties early in the game. When there was momentum, whether he was on the floor or off the floor, you heard his voice.”
–Field Level Media