Well, that was something, huh? The old adage of Michael Jordan will need to apply for the rest of the season moving forward — you either win or you learn. By this point I think we all know there will be a lot of learning this year. How much you decide to watch and subject yourself to is entirely personal, between you and your God. If you set aside time yesterday evening for the newest episode of Learning with the Dayton Flyers, you probably left feeling like me, thinking of all the better things you could’ve been doing with that 2.5 hours. As it stands, you’re here because you’re a sad sack who lives and dies by the Flyers, like I do, and you needed one more taste of medicine before we turn the page to the annual “fill up the schedule games” vs. programs that do not and will not matter. Let’s get into it.
Simple sentence to get us going: The Flyers started Sunday evening in Starkville with undoubtedly the worst half of basketball they have played all season. They were outshot (48% vs. 33%), outrebounded (18-15) and committed a truly mind-blowing 16 turnovers to go along with just 3 team assists. I was at a bar for the game and legitimately contemplated going home. To say the Bulldogs did anything particularly well would be giving far too much credit to them and turning the spotlight away from a deplorable effort from UD. Any team on UD’s schedule would’ve taken a lead into the half. Yes, even Tennessee Tech.
One takeaway from the first half was seeing The Great John Crosby Experiment of 2017 officially come to an end. The brief shine we saw to start the year was merely a blinding light distracting us from what we already knew. Jalen Crutcher started the game and took care of most of the heavy lifting at the point-guard spot. It’s safe to say this will be his job moving forward. Crutcher put together a solid performance (if not slightly inconsistent, as it goes for freshmen) finishing with 33 minutes of burn and 18 points to go along with a couple steals and 3 rebounds. The most concerning part of Crutcher’s game at the point, however, was his 0 assists and 5 turnovers. While none of us are particularly high on John Crosby, he’s a facilitator on the floor because he doesn’t have the tools to beat people one-on one and create scoring opportunities on his own. Crutcher has proved to be the opposite. As the season moves forward, keep an eye on Crutcher’s ability to create scoring chances for the rest of the team, something he did very little of last night. This is a part of the “learn” narrative I started with. Be patient.
John was not completely absent from the first half though. I thought my dinner with him at the Pine Club had sunk in, I thought the “leap through the lane with no idea where the ball is going” was scrapped from the playbook. I was wrong, we were all wrong. We’ve been duped:
So, the first half was utter trash, but somehow, the game completely turned on a dime when the second period started. The Flyers went into a similar zone that MSU was deploying and managed to scratch and claw their way back in the game the same way it got out of hand in the first place: by forcing turnovers. The Flyers still committed their fair share of second half giveaways (10) but were able to force 14 from the bad guys to make the game watchable. John Crosby even made another appearance in the second!
I was going to try really hard to spin the second half in a positive light, but the defense was just about the only thing worth writing about. The offense is, and remains, a total clusterfuck devoid of any real game plan whatsoever. If you didn’t notice (I’m not being cute, I didn’t notice until I checked the box score) only three Flyers scored in the second half. Three. Crutcher had 12 (with 0 assists), Josh had 14 and DURRELL chipped in 13. That was the entirety of Dayton’s scoring. I’m just not going to spend time talking about how effective our zone defense is/was when this is the offense we’re putting together on the other end. It’s fucking trash. There’s no other way around it. While you should stay patient, you should also question the coaching minds behind the offense we’ve seen in the first seven games. It’s the type of shit that will lead to us struggling against Duquesne and Fordham.
I told myself I would find a way to sneak this into the recap, but as the game went on, and the Flyers began to scratch closer and closer to the lead, something strange was happening to me:
Usually this is the part of the game where the Flyers draw closer, and my own internal momentum builds while I think to myself “We might pull this game out!”, but that never happened. Never once during the second half did I ever feel like UD would be coming away with a road win. As I mentioned, I’m fairly certain this is related to the complete lack of trust I have with this offense. Every trip down the floor you have to ask yourself, who is going to score? And how?
As fate would have it, Jalen Crutcher tied the score at 56, and then two minutes of back and forth ended with DURRELL hitting a free throw to tie it at 59 with only a minute remaining. Dayton would find themselves with the ball shortly afterwards with nothing but time to win the game and send the fans back to their Mississippi shanties. I sound like a broken record in this post, but the offense did absolutely nothing with the first 20 seconds of the possession, settling for another low-percentage three ball from Crutcher. He missed and the Flyers came down with the rebound with 25 seconds remaining. I will give you the option of whether or not you want to re-live the final possession:
Here is the final 30 seconds for those of you who want to rewatch it for some reason pic.twitter.com/VwdCUq6rFk
— Flyer Faithful (@Flyer_Faithful) December 4, 2017
Quinndary Weatherspoon did his best Vee Sanford impression – putting one high off the glass as time ran down, delivering the final dagger in what was a game the Flyers didn’t really deserve to be in anyways. The recap is growing long now, so I’ll wrap it up with our first edition of the Hickory BBQ Hot Takes of the Game:
- If Matej isn’t hitting three pointers his ass belongs glued to the pine. He has become a total defensive liability who looks constantly lost on the floor.
- Jordan Pierce is no longer redshirting. The minute he stepped on the floor in Starkville he forfeited his right to redshirt. No idea what to do with this information.
- Trey Landers is clearly a solid body who can contribute and get to the hoop, but what exactly is his role on this team? He played 20 minutes, didn’t score and, as I’m writing this, I can’t even recall a single memorable thing he did. Again, I have no idea what to do with this information.
- X-Man Williams was once again held out of the game with the same back spasms that kept him out against Akron and it makes me wonder if “back spasms” is the new “deep bone bruise” of this program? We shall see. Wednesday should be a nice opportunity for him to ease back into action if he’s up to it.
- DURRELL continues to be the most valuable piece of the pie for the Flyers. Josh is pretty much always going to get his each night now (16 pts/8 reb has become routine) so it will remain largely on DURRELL’s shoulders to provide the spark this team needs. He had another fantastic all around effort – finishing with 17 to go along with 10 rebounds and a pair of assists.
- Kostas is going to be in foul trouble just about every time he takes the floor this season. He continues to be a work in progress. He ain’t going to the NBA in the spring.
So that’s it, boys and girls. The Flyers drop to 3-4 and fall under .500 for the first time in over a decade. Thankfully they have a glorified high-school team coming into The Arena on Wednesday with nothing on their mind other than taking their whoopin and collecting the check on the way home. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Tennessee Tech is coming at a perfect time for the young Flyers to regain some confidence and figure out how to score consistently against a much, much less talented foe. Stay patient, be normal, remain LOWD.
(Author’s note: thank you, as always, goes to Matt Allaire for making the game highlights easily accessible via video)