It was a night to remember if you were Jack Westerfield. A four year walkon, he has seen the high’s and the low’s of college basketball while donning a Dayton uniform. Last night was his night, UD Arena was transformed into the “Jack Shack.” He started in place of Jordan Davis and the offensive ran through him exclusively for the first three minutes of this game. You can get away with these kinds of things when you play La Salle. He exited the game at around the 17:30 mark. As far as the actual basketball played between Dayton and La Salle? That shit was pretty forgettable (save for the Obi slamz).
When Dr. James Naismith created the game of basketball, I don’t think the first half of last night’s contest between the Dayton Flyers and La Salle Explorers is what he had in mind. Over the game’s first twenty minutes both teams combined to shoot 17-of-56 from the field and 3-of-20 from three. High-level basketball was not to be found in the first half. Dayton took a 25-18 lead into the break and I thought to myself, well you can look at this one of two ways– A: “Well, we didn’t play well and we are up 7 at half” or B: “We are only beating La Salle by 7 at half.” I leaned toward option B, because my God was La Salle awful. It was probably the worst collective first half I have watched all season and, furthermore, it was hard to believe that Dayton had the number one offense in the A10 for the majority of the season. The start of the second half wasn’t much better. Dayton led 36-28 with ten minutes to go and all the under bettors on last night’s contest were already cashing out their tickets (The total was listed at 141 at the tip). To make matters worse, La Salle put on a pretty poor press which Dayton ate alive and led to a 34-11 scoring margin in favor of the Flyers the rest of the way.
With just under four minutes left in the game, “We want Jack” chants started to ring throughout the Arena and the senior walkon checked back into the game. With the clock winding down Westerfield let one fly from three that missed, but Trey Landers, who was still playing hard, got an offensive rebound and kicked out to other walkon, Cam Greer, who fed Westerfield another chance from deep. From the same spot as Joey Gruden before him, let’s call it Walkon Wing, Westerfield let fly once more, and it was nothing but net. It was the only source of #LOWD all night and John Thomas Westerfield closed out his career in storybook fashion.
Longer video of Westerfield’s shot is even better. Senior walkon went bucket hunting and was rewarded with a truly great moment. pic.twitter.com/HadJtkcxFq
— Adam (@adam_gutheil) March 7, 2019
There’s not much else to talk about as far as the La Salle game is concerned, this is going to be the last recap of the regular season for me so I wanted to give my thoughts on the season at large.
La Salle: Not Very Good
Before we dive into Dayton, I want to point out just how bad La Salle was last night. They finished with 39 points on 16-of-57 shooting (28.1%) and a horrid 4-of-27 from three. The Explorers committed thirteen turnovers and only shot four free throws. Not a player in double figures. That’s comically bad basketball folks.
Dayton was sneakily a quality road team in conference play
With last night’s win, Dayton finished 6-3 at home in conference, with losses to VCU, George Mason and Rhode Island. That is a little discouraging because two of those three games are games Dayton should have won regardless, and VCU was certainly winnable. The surprise for me this season was Dayton’s performances on the road. Save for the St. Louis debacle, Dayton racked up a couple of road victories of note against Davidson and Rhode Island. UD exorcised some previous demons in Foggy Bottom and Amherst and gave a VCU team — who protected their home court — all they could handle. If the ball bounces a different way, Dayton perhaps wins that game against the Richmond Rams. Oh, and they also destroyed Fordham, but that is to be expected.
One of the challenges I posed early in the year to Anthony Grant was getting these players acclimated to winning and playing well on the road in conference. He passed that challenge, now he’s got additional areas to improve upon as we move into year three of his tenure. If he can replicate, or even improve on, Dayton’s road record next season, I really like the Flyers chances moving forward to be the top dog in the league. Dayton has one remaining road game against Duquesne. Now could all the good will I just put on the Flyers going to translate into them losing in Pittsburgh? Most definitely. But as of this writing, I have been pleasantly surprised by how Dayton has performed away from the Gem City during the conference season.
Josh Cunningham leaves behind an odd legacy for Dayton
Josh Cunningham’s legacy is an interesting debate. He was a great talent, one of the most talented big men we have seen don the Dayton red in some time. Cunningham showed all the potential in the world and was a premier performer for Dayton during his three years. The transfer from Bradley was soft-spoken by nature, so he didn’t exactly cultivate a personality that Flyer fans could rally behind. For as talented as he was, he was just as frustrating. I kept finding myself wanting him to be more aggressive and consistent throughout this season, it seemed that his points always came in bunches. Held to only a bucket in the first half, Josh was a driving force behind a Dayton run which buried this game, he finished his final regular season game at the Arena with eighteen points and five rebounds. I think time is going to be kind to Josh Cunningham, when you look back at the raw numbers of his time at UD, but in this moment you can’t help but feel a little empty about his senior season. Hopefully Josh can begin to unlock his and, by extension, the team’s potential in Brooklyn.
Jalen Crutcher has emerged as a very good point guard, next year he needs to become elite.
Jalen Crutcher finished last night with 12 points, 12 boards, and 6 assists. A damn good stat line from your starting point guard. Crutcher has shown flashes of greatness this season, and has exhibited a knack for making clutch buckets. However, Jalen does disappear at times and plays below his capabilities far too often. Next year he needs to become consistent in his good play. There is no reason why Crutcher can’t be the best point guard in the A10. I am looking for him to take a big leap next year, maybe even be in first team all-league contention. I’m very excited to see what junior Jalen Crutcher can do next season.
Josh Cunningham is going to leave the front court in good hands
Josh’s graduation will officially pass the baton to his fellow front court mates, Ryan Mikesell and Obi Toppin. Fortunately, these two guys have been our most consistent contributors this conference season. Mikesell, who has been playing great basketball since January, will be looked upon as a senior leader next season, and with how consistent his play is, and how steady of hand he is for Dayton, his steadiness will be needed with a bunch of new faces entering the fold. Toppin, who I have no doubt will enter his name into the draft process, will be back next season and if he continues to develop will generate buzz as a potential NBA draft pick. He still has a ways to go to get there. Yes, he is a freak athlete with size who can dunk, but that’s not exactly a desired trait in the modern NBA. Where solid pros separate themselves is from the group is with their total skill set, their feel and understanding of the game. Obi has a long way to go in all three of those areas. Can he develop those three things over the next twelve months? I absolutely think so. Obi has the opportunity to really build the hype around him by being the best player on a, fingers crossed, tourney bound Dayton team (he realistically could evolve into the best player in the conference). The Obi leap is what I am looking forward to most next season.
Some quick final thoughts on the game last night and Dayton at large
- Dwayne Cohill was a +40(!) last night. It is amazing how much Dayton’s defensive intensity picks up when he enters the game. He is starting to garner a Kyle Davis-esque reputation as a defender, and he is going to be a fan favorite in his time here, of that I have no doubt.
- Hot Boy was in attendance last night once again. I just want someone with the nickname “Hot Boy” to play for Dayton, please, I don’t ask for much.
- Lastly, this season has been an interesting one, one of the most divisive seasons I have seen from the fan base. You could ask five people for their opinions on this season and you would undoubtedly get five different answers. It has been a topsy-turvy year, one filled with unprecedented ups and downs.
Dayton has definitely butchered opportunities at “quality” wins this season. As a matter of fact, the Flyers lost against the top five opponents they squared off with. They have shown flashes of equal parts brilliance and dreadfulness — they literally displayed both last night. It’s been a rollercoaster, no doubt, but if you told me before the season started, “Dayton will be a top 3 A10 team,” I would have taken it. (Shoutout to Sully for predicting a third-place finish for the Flyers. He is omnipotent). Regardless of everything that has come before, Dayton is good enough to win in Brooklyn. They are. They have shown that this season, just not consistently. It’s March, it’s all about playing the best basketball going into the tourney. Who knows? Maybe all this torment and frustration will lead to an A10 championship? Wouldn’t that be some shit?
Okay, folks, that’s all I got for this one. It’s been a joy writing for the site this season. You guys didn’t run me off with pitchforks and I really appreciate everyone reading the ramblings of a twenty-three year-old former Dayton student. We still have one regular season game left and then it’s on to the good stuff in Brooklyn. I imagine we will have a A10 tourney preview pod coming your way next week. Stay LOWD.