Obi Toppin introduced himself to fans with with two memorable dunks. Trey Landers showed the hops that make him one of the team’s most exciting players. Josh Cunningham took over in the second half to squash any late comeback.
For the most part, the Dayton Flyers got everything wanted from an exhibition game Friday against Capital University at UD Arena. They left the court healthy despite two injury scares — Dwayne Cohill was OK after an awkward fall and Jalen Crutcher was helped off the court with cramping issues — and they left the court as 89-71 winners against Capital University, a Division III opponent that played well and showed the Flyers still have a long way to go on the defensive end.
» PHOTO GALLERY: Dayton vs. Capital
“I think we were really good,” redshirt senior forward Josh Cunningham said. “I think we can be even better. On the defensive end, we kind of slacked tonight, but this is the first actual game, so we played pretty good for it being our first game.”
Dayton led 44-38 at halftime and 52-49 five minutes into the second half. A 15-5 run gave the Flyers a cushion in the final 10 minutes.
“This was a great game from the standpoint that it was competitive all the way through,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “Our guys had to stay locked in. There were different runs in the game, different things that happened. I couldn’t script it any better in terms of what we needed to get out of this game as we prepare for the regular season.”
Dayton opens the regular season at 7 p.m. Wednesday against North Florida at UD Arena. Here are five takeaways from the exhibition game:
1. The defense got off to a rough start: Capital, coached by Grant’s former Dayton teammate Damon Goodwin, made 7 of 8 shots from the field in the first 12 minutes to build an 18-13 lead.
The Crusaders finished the game with 50 percent shooting from the field (25 of 50) and 44.4 percent shooting from 3-point range (8 of 18). Centerville graduate Joey Weingartner, one of five Capital seniors, did most of the damage, leading all scorers with 20 points and making 6 of 8 3-pointers.
None of that was a good sign for a Dayton team that focused on defense throughout the offseason and preseason, but it was one game and the first step for the Flyers.
“If we’re playing our best basketball right now, that’s not what you want as a coach,” Grant said. “We didn’t really rely on a scouting report or anything like that. We told our guys we were going to rely on our principles and habits we’ve tried to build up to this point. You kind of expect some areas you need to grow and improve upon. It will be a great lesson for our guys as we move forward in terms of the importance of the 3-point line, the importance of being locked in and being able to guard the ball one-on-one, being able to defend without fouling, blocking out, all the things we talked about in the preseason. We saw some evidence today when we did well with it and when we didn’t do well. That’s what you want.”
» WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Green sees bright spots in exhibition win
2. Ryan Mikesell looked ready to play: The redshirt junior forward, who missed last season after undergoing two hip surgeries, scored Dayton’s first five points. He finished with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting in 23 minutes.
Mikesell started alongside the four returning starters: Cunningham, who had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds; Landers, who tied Jhery Matos with a team-high 15 points; Crutcher, who scored 11 points; and Jordan Davis, who had 11 points.
Mikesell was excited to play, Grant said. He had not played since the NCAA tournament game against Wichita State in 2017 and also missed Dayton’s scrimmage against Pittsburgh last weekend.
“It’s been a while since he was on the court,” Grant said. “Ryan missed a good 10 days or so with an ankle. We were cautious with him in terms of bringing him back and making sure he was ready to go, but I thought he played with great energy. He still has to get his wind back and his timing back in terms of the amount of time he missed, but I was pleased with the minutes he got and happy he was able to get back out there.”
3. Toppin got off to a good start: Like Mikesell, Toppin sat on the bench throughout the 2017-18 season. This was his first chance to play in front of Dayton fans, and he scored 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
“I thought Obi played well for his first college game,” Grant said. “It’s been a long wait for him, going through last year and not being able to play and compete in games. I thought he really benefited from the year he got in terms of being able to practice and develop physically, being able to watch the game and develop mentally. I thought he was prepared tonight.”
4. Dayton took care of the ball: The Flyers committed eight turnovers, while Capital had 17. Dayton averaged 13.7 turnovers per game last season while forcing 12.5 per game.
Crutcher and Davis each had six assists and no turnovers. Six of the turnovers were committed by players seeing their first college action: Toppin, Cohill and Frankie Policelli.
“(Turnovers) along with our defense were key areas where we’ve got to show improvement,” Grant said. “Twenty four assists, eight turnovers, I’ll take that every day of the week.”
5. Two new walk-ons enjoyed their first game: Dayton added Meadowdale graduate Jabali Leonard and Northmont graduate Christian Wilson to the roster before the game. They made the team as walk-ons and will join returning walk-ons Jack Westerfield, who missed this game with an injury, and Camron Greer on the roster.
Leonard made a layup in the final minute, and Wilson made 1 of 2 free throws.
“Christian is in his second year,” Grant said. “He tried out last year and wasn’t able to be to be added to our roster. Jabali is a freshman this year. It was great to see them get out there, and I thought they handled the moment really well.”
Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to exclusive deals and newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.