PHILADELPHIA, PA. 1/2/2020 – The La Salle Explorers opened the new decade off a five-game win streak in the past decade. The 2020 opener was also the curtain raiser for their Atlantic 10 schedule, and featured the #20 Dayton Flyers. This game would show where the Explorers stand against ranked competition.
La Salle has some more growing to do as Dayton won impressively 84 – 58 at the Gola Arena. Obi Toppin, an Atlantic 10 preseason all-first team selection, led the way with a game-high 20 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. He made 7 of 9 from the floor.
“I felt like this was a reality check for us,” said La Salle Coach Ashley Howard.
“Today put us right back in check. We got a lot of work to do to keep getting better. Dayton is really good. They might be one of the best teams in the country and they played like it tonight.”
In the opening 20 minutes the Flyers took a 46 – 24 lead into halftime behind 68% shooting. The starting five made 15 of the 18 shots taken. The Explorers were cold from the field (32%) and made none of the three-pointers attempted.
“We had scoring issues early in the game that affected our fight,” Howard said. “I felt like midway through the first half we lost our fight and once we couldn’t generate easy offense, and that’s all Dayton.
“We started the game really well,” said Dayton Coach Anthony Grant. “We wanted to take control of the game early. I felt like our guys did that. We were able to get out in transition a lot. Our defense led to that in the first half. We were able to build the lead.”
The game turned in the visitors direction midway through the first half going on an 18 – 0 run in five minutes resulting in a 38 – 14 advantage with just over 6 minutes remaining.
“Any time that you can do that it is going to give you separation,” Grant said about the run. “The key tor us is to maintain focus and intensity on the defensive end. When we do that it creates opportunities to get out in transition.”
La Salle shot 34.8% for the game, and the Explorers made just 3 of 17 from beyond the arc. There was a better shooting percentage in the second half, but not enough to make a difference.
“The one thing I would have liked to have seen tonight was more fight and a more competitive spirit,” said Howard. “In the Villanova game we got down, came back and battled in the second half. Temple, we were down, battled in the second half. We didn’t have that same fight tonight.”
Ed Croswell led La Salle with 14 points and 7 rebounds. Christian Ray also pulled down 7 boards. Isiah Deas added 10 points.
Four other Flyers (12 – 2, 1 – 0) scored in double figures. Jalen Crutcher scored 15 points and Ryan Mikesell had 11. Trey Landers and Ibi Watson scored 10 apiece. Landers had a game-high 8 rebounds and 6 assists.
La Salle (9 – 4, 0 – 1) plays at Fordham on Sunday. Another chance to improve as a team.
Written By: Glenn Papazian