Last night’s game between our hometown Flyers and the Mastadons of Purdue-Ft Wayne at UD Arena didn’t really feature a whole lot of defense…let’s start there.
The Flyers faced their real first test of adversity on the young season as PFW snuck up on that ass and led the game in stretches; resulting in a halftime score of 47-42, the first time the Flyers have trailed at the break this year. They picked up the defensive intensity in the second half and, truth be told, the overall play improved on both ends of the court in the 2nd.
The Flyers finally went on a 7-0 run after a Crutcher three and an And-1 from Mikesell. They took the lead 65-64 with 12:21 left and outscored PFW 26-16 the rest of way to fend off the ire of the judgmental sweaters on-looking. This was a game that they closed out down the stretch, and that was good to see. Too many times last season we just couldn’t close out games. The Flyers finished the game shooting 60% from the field and were a pretty average 35% from three. While the Dons who were shooting 59% from 3 at the half cooled down to 45% from 3 on the game. Last night was the first real adversity that these guys have faced on the young season and they passed. The Flyers have now played three games so I think its fair to make some initial assessments of the squad so far.
Josh Cunningham return to the lineup was most welcome, as he dropped 20 points to go with 8 rebounds on 9-for-10 shooting like he never left. Cunningham really is the king of the quiet scoring night. You don’t realize how much he has and then you look up at the scoreboard and you say to yourself “Wait, Josh has 20?” (like I did last night). One area where he needs to improve is handling a double team in the post. He is going to see that a lot this season and when it does happen he needs to be able to make the other team pay. He replaced Ryan Mikesell in the starting lineup, which wasn’t surprising, as it would have been ill-advised to take out the hot hand of Obi from the starting lineup.
Speaking of Obi, he came down to earth a little bit last night. He finished with 8 points and 3 rebounds on only 18 minutes of game time. He’s gonna have to improve on the defensive end because we are going to need his presence as the season moves forward. (Sully’s editor’s note: Obi has those big PAWS. Big fella gathers the ball as good as any young big man I’ve seen at this level, ok my bad, had to say that)
Mikesell continued his early consistent production last night. In his first game coming off the bench he finished with 10 points on 3-5 shooting, including 2 threes in only 13 minutes. Chip is PRODUCING in the early going. On the year, he is averaging 13.3 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists on 54/50/75 (!!!) splits. If he continues this consistent production off the bench it will go a long way to helping this team in close games. Trey Landers had his typical “bring your lunch pail” kind of game. 15 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds. Trey is just so good at the little things throughout a game, he is the kind of player that coaches dream about and his junior campaign is off to a hot start.
Now lets talk about the back court. Jalen Crutcher was the WHIO player of the game last night finishing with 18 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds as he continues a really good start to the season. He is now averaging 12 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds and 1 turnover per game on 47/35/70 shooting splits. Jalen has been our most consistent contributor in the back court in the early going and looks like he is embracing the full time point guard role this season. I think when it is all said and done he will lead the team in minutes as he logged 32 last night, which was second on the team.
His fellow sophomore backcourt mate, Jordan Davis, was quiet as he finished with 10 points on 3-8 shooting and 0-4 from three. Davis needs to work on consistency this season, he goes MIA for stretches of games and is frankly too talented to let that happen. The guards off the bench contributed in their own unique ways last night. Dayton essentially upgraded to Jhery Matos from John Crosby, and boy is that a hell of an upgrade. He played hard, defended well, and showed off some flashy passing skills. He is only going to get more comfortable in his role as the season wears on and I think ol’ Anthony may have found something in Matos.
Cohill still looks like a freshman but I like what I see from him. He could have very easily came into the program thinking he was going to be a scorer, and be the man, like he had been his entire high school career…but he has actually done the complete opposite. He goes in there, knows his role, and plays hard in that role. His time for scoring will come, but for now if he just keeps playing hard and playing within himself I think you are going to see consistent growth and improvement throughout the season. (hey guys, Sully again – this is a really good point from Drew that you should definitely agree with)
This team is fun to watch, way more fun to watch than last season. It has been said in every radio program and interview thus far, but it is the damn truth. These guys are building a foundation that this program needs to get back to relevance, and out of the NIT conversation. UD only has 8 players, but the Flyers are capable of throwing out some pretty unique lineups.
This team is going to have to outscore teams to win this year, obviously, but I think UD is capable of that. UD currently has 6 players averaging double figures on the season and if the Cagers can keep that balance and continue to excel on the offense end, they will make some noise in a very, very dreadful Atlantic 10. The Flyers are averaging 81 points a game on 50% shooting and only 29% shooting from 3, so if they can get that number up, the offense will continue to be effective. (Pro tip: if you are betting man like myself, there might be money to be made in Dayton overs this season. Last nights number of 153 was hit with 6 minutes left in the game.)
The Flyers travel down to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament next week and will have a chance at getting 3 quality games on their resume. Hopefully some of the Sweaters are making a holiday day trip down there, and if you are making the trip, always remember to Ware Red and Be LOWD.