The fans showed up. They always do. The announced crowd was 12,507. There weren’t that many fans there, but it was a strong showing considering the circumstances.
Fans braved the slippery roads and the dropping temperatures to bask in the warmth of UD Arena on Friday, and the Dayton Flyers rewarded them with one of the most improbable performances in years.
Dayton beat Virginia Commonwealth 106-79 with the kind of shooting performance that shows up as often as Halley’s Comet: 62.9 percent from the field (39 of 62), 53.1 percent from 3-point range (17 of 32) and 78.6 percent from the free-throw line (11 of 14). The Flyers set a school record for made 3-pointers. They previously had made 15 in a game three times.
This was Dayton’s Scooter Gennett game — totally out of nowhere, almost impossible to duplicate and a joy to watch for fans. Dayton coach Anthony Grant praised those fans after the game.
“We’ve got an awesome fan base, man,” Grant said. “It’s an honor to be able to represent our fans. They showed up in inclement weather. I pray for everybody’s safe travels back home. It was an awesome atmosphere. I’m just really happy we were able to get the win for them.”
The Flyers (9-8, 3-2) did everything but hit four home runs — as the Cincinnati Reds’ Gennett did last season — though there was a 4-point play by Darrell Davis in the record-breaking, 66-point first half.
“That was an old-fashioned whooping,” VCU coach Mike Rhoades told the Richmond Times-Dispatch after the game. “Not good enough right off the get-go. We had two good practices; I thought we had a great shoot-around today. But once things got really tough for us, we just didn’t have any resistance to them.”
For the fans who made the trip — some moving down into empty seats in the lower level that are almost always full — this was the rare game where they had a reason to stand and cheer from start to finish.
» RELATED: Game goes on despite inclement weather
VCU never led after falling behind 8-0. There were no ties, other than 0-0. Dayton led by as many as 25 points in the first half and by as many as 31 points in the second half. The Rams (11-7, 3-2) got no closer than 24 points in the final 10 minutes.
Davis led the Flyers with 28 points, tying a career high. He also had a career high with nine assists. He had a perfect first half: 7 of 7 from the field, 3 of 3 from 3-point range and 4 of 4 from the free-throw line. He had no idea he had that stat line when he was asked about it after the game.
Davis played a large part in Dayton building a 66-41 halftime lead. His three free throws with 3 seconds to play put the exclamation point on a half that saw the Flyers set a school record for points in the first half. They set the previous record of 65 in 1990 against Xavier. According to Ken Pomeroy, of KenPom.com, it was the highest-scoring half by any team in college basketball in a conference game since at least 2010.
“We wanted to impose our will as soon as the game started,” Davis said. “We did that. We wanted to break their pressure and make them not press anymore.”
Here’s Joey Gruden’s first career 3. pic.twitter.com/Ox7MGZzL37— David Jablonski (@DavidPJablonski) January 13, 2018
The other Davis, Jordan Davis, was just as important. He hit his career high with 21 points. Trey Landers continued to make a push for most-improved player in the Atlantic 10 Conference, scoring 15 points. Josh Cunningham scored 13.
Overshadowed by all the other stats was the effort by freshman point guard Jalen Crutcher, who fell two rebounds short of recording the first triple-double in school history. He had 12 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
“How much fun was that?” Crutcher was asked after the game.
“It was really fun coming out tonight,” he said. “It’s always fun blowing a team out.”
Crutcher played a big part in helping Dayton break VCU’s full-court press. The Flyers committed only 11 turnovers, their lowest total since they had eight in a loss to Duquesne. They outscored VCU 24-14 in fast-break points in part because they beat the press for some easy baskets.
“We prepared in practice,” Crutcher said. “Our scout team did really good with the press, so we were ready for the press.”
Dayton at St. Joseph’s, 6:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO