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Obi Toppin scores 24 on bad ankle and No. 13 Dayton beats VCU, 79-65 in OT

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DAYTON, Ohio — An injury wasn’t going to stop Obi Toppin from closing out an impressive victory Tuesday night.

As the final minute ticked down, Jalen Crutcher dribbled toward the basket and saw Toppin getting set for one more alley-oop, bad ankle and all.

Pass. Catch. Dunk. The 13th-ranked Flyers did it one more time while finishing off a rival that’s gotten the best of them lately.

Toppin scored 24 points on a tender ankle and led a 22-point run in the second half as Dayton beat VCU 79-65 on Tuesday night, ending the Flyers’ streak of four straight losses to the Rams.

The forward who started the game in pain put his fingerprints on the biggest moments.

“He’s a competitor, man,” said Trey Landers, who had 16 points. “I appreciate him so much for that. He showed up big time.”

The Flyers (15-2, 4-0 Atlantic 10) got the better of a foul-filled match-up between the league’s top-scoring team and its peskiest defense, remaining unbeaten at home. Toppin had three dunks and a 3-pointer during the second-half run that broke it open.

VCU (12-5, 2-2) had won the last four against Dayton, all by five points or less, but faded after a back-and-forth opening half that included three technical fouls. De’Riante Jenkins and Nah’Shon Hyland led VCU with 16 points apiece.

Crutcher added 20 points for Dayton, which shot 50% from the field.

The Rams couldn’t contain Toppin, who sprained his left ankle early in the second half of an 88-60 win over UMass on Saturday and didn’t return.

Toppin moved cautiously in the opening minutes — his only shot came from behind the arc and was well off. He asserted himself out of the first media timeout, getting his first rebound and his first points on a bank shot.

“I had to go into the game not thinking about it,” said Toppin, who played 33 minutes and also had nine rebounds. “At first it was bothering me, but I got into the flow of the game and the Adrenalin kicked in.”

Toppin couldn’t get high enough for a dunk late in the first half, a reminder he was not full-strength. But he had a bank shot and two free throws as Dayton closed the half with an eight-point run for a 38-33 lead.

Toppin had three dunks and a 3, and Landers made a pair of 3s and a dunk as Dayton broke open a tied game and built the lead to 63-41. The Flyers were ahead by double digits the rest of the way.

The game quickly got chippy, with three technical fouls called in the first half.

VCU’s Marcus Evans was called for a foul as he and Chatman went to the floor while wrestling for the ball. As players gathered, VCU’s Issac Vann and Dayton’s Jordy Tshimanga exchanged words and got technicals. Less than a minute later, Jenkins also got a technical.

Evans got a technical in the second half as Dayton pulled away.

“Early in the game, you could tell there was a lot of emotion on both sides,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “The guys had a tough time finding a rhythm.”

BIG PICTURE

VCU: The Rams were the league’s preseason favorite and won their first six games but have been inconsistent, especially on offense. They had a chance to regain some of their luster by knocking off the Flyers. They led by five points in the first half but couldn’t pull it off.

Dayton: The Flyers moved up to No. 13 this week, matching their highest ranking of the season. The last time they were higher in the poll was December 1967, when they were No. 6. The convincing win over VCU left them in position for another move up.

SERIES STUFF

VCU leads the series 11-6 and is 3-5 all-time at University of Dayton Arena. The Flyers’ last win in the series was 106-79 on Jan. 12, 2018 at UD arena.

RANKINGS STUFF

VCU is 1-2 against ranked teams. The Rams beat No. 23 LSU 84-82 and lost to No. 17 Tennessee 72-69.

OVERCOMING SLOPPINESS

VCU came in leading the league in steals (9.6 per game) and forcing turnovers (18.6). The Flyers won despite a season-high 20 turnovers that set up 31 of the Rams’ points.

UP NEXT

VCU hosts St. Bonaventure on Saturday.

Dayton plays at St. Louis on Friday.

Ten Things to Know: Long road losing streaks end during wild day of college hoops

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College basketball was all about big road wins.

The Big 12 and ACC saw two huge road losing streaks end. The rest of the day saw some upsets along with an injury to keep tabs on.

BAYLOR GOT ITS FIRST-EVER WIN IN PHOG ALLEN FIELDHOUSE

Everything you need to know about the biggest game of the day can be found right here.

CLEMSON GOT ITS FIRST-EVER WIN (IN 60 TRIES!) IN CHAPEL HILL

Clemson basketball kicked off a big sports weekend for the school. The Tigers snapped their 0-59 mark in Chapel Hill with a 79-76 double-overtime win over North Carolina.

Brad Brownell’s team celebrated in euphoric fashion.

This isn’t your typical ACC road win. It was one of the premier streaks in college basketball. Clemson and North Carolina first played men’s basketball during the 1925-26 season. Both programs are founding members of the ACC.

Same conference.

Since 1953.

So for the Tigers to FINALLY earn a win in Chapel Hill, even if North Carolina happens to be down right now, is a monumental accomplishment.

For North Carolina, the recent freefall continues. The Tar Heels have lost three straight and dropped to 1-4 in ACC play. Following the loss, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams made some emotional remarks blaming himself.

Even though North Carolina is well outside of the top 25, they remain one of the most compelling teams in college hoops.

WEST VIRGINIA SHUTS DOWN TEXAS TECH

Things weren’t particularly pretty in Morgantown on Saturday night. Using seemingly its whole roster to wear down the Red Raiders, West Virginia earned an impressive Big 12 home win.

Despite only making three shots from three-point range on the night, West Virginia held a comfortable advantage thanks to one of the nation’s best defenses. The Mountaineers held Texas Tech to 28 percent shooting. The Red Raiders simply had no answer for the swarm of West Virginia defenders.

While West Virginia has continued to climb up the national rankings with an underrated array of quad one wins, this is one of the program’s best wins this season. The Mountaineers are surely a contender in the Big 12. The major question becomes if they are more than just a conference title contender. And more of a potential national title contender.

NICK RICHARDS IS THE KEY TO KENTUCKY’S SEASON

Over the course of the last four games, No. 14 Kentucky has asserted themselves as one of the best teams in college basketball once again. They’ve knocked off Louisville, Missouri, Georgia and Alabama during that run, and it should come as no coincidence that the best stretch of Kentucky’s season has come at the same time that Nick Richards has played the best basketball of his career.

In those four games, Richards is averaging 16.0 points, 10.0 boards and 2.5 blocks, but more importantly, he’s staying on the floor for more than 29 minutes per game. He’s starting to figure things out, and that, in turn, has helped build his confidence, his belief in himself.

“You can’t coach a kid’s confidence,” a source close to Kentucky said. “He needs to build it himself.”

He’s posting harder, he’s demanding the ball, he’s doing all of the things that Kentucky has been waiting for him to two do two-and-a-half years. And it hasn’t only helped Richards, the guards that feed him the rock have confidence in him as well. If you’re a point guard and you know Richards doesn’t want the ball, are you going to give him a post touch? Are you going to throw a post entry when you don’t think anything good will happen?

Saturday proved my point.

In the first half against Alabama, Richards had 11 points, six boards and four blocks, and Kentucky went into the break with a 45-35 lead. He finished with just two points in the second half, and Alabama cut the lead to one in the final two minutes.

OHIO STATE HAS NOW LOST FOUR STRAIGHT GAMES

The 12th-ranked Buckeyes dropped to 11-5 on the season and 1-4 in the Big Ten after losing their fourth straight game on Saturday, 66-54, to Indiana.

During that four game losing streak, Ohio State has shot 28-for-97 from three, a cool 28.9 percent. Prior to the start of this losing streak, after they beat Kentucky in Las Vegas and when they were sitting at No. 1 in KenPom and splitting votes with Gonzaga for No. 1 in the AP poll, the Buckeyes were shooting 41.5 percent from three as a team.

The reason why they are struggling from beyond the arc is a bigger question. Part of it is just regression — water eventually finds itself — and part of it is that as D.J. Carton has struggled, who had seven turnovers on Saturday, Ohio State’s offense has struggled. They don’t have the individual playmakers to create offense for themselves, and if Carton (and C.J. Walker) are struggling to create easy shots for their teammates, Ohio State becomes really limited offensively.

Oh, and should I mention that Ohio State’s second-leading scorer, Duane Washington, didn’t take a single shot and was benched for the final 30 minutes. He’s either hurt or Chris Holtmann is fed up with his defensive lapses.

Either way, what was clicking for the first month of the season is clearly no longer working.

AUBURN AND SAN DIEGO STATE ARE STILL UNDEFEATED

The No. 5 Tigers cruised past Georgia at home, winning 82-60, while the No. 7 Aztecs took care of business against Boise State at home, 83-65.

Auburn’s biggest tests of the season to date will come next week, as they travel to take on Alabama and Florida. SDSU heads to Fresno State on Tuesday and then will host Nevada next weekend.

OBI TOPPIN ROLLED HIS ANKLE

The star big man for No. 15 Dayton stepped on someone’s foot early in the second half of an 88-60 win over UMass and had to leave the game. He ended up leaving the game and returning to his team’s bench with a boot on his left foot.

Toppin told reporters after the game that, “it’s good.” Head coach Anthony Grant, speaking in his press conference after the game, said that he thought it was a sprained ankle and that the team would know more in the next 24 hours, but he did not sound overly concerned.

VIRGINIA DROPS SECOND STRAIGHT TO UNRANKED OPPONENT

It’s looking like defending national champion Virginia will fall out of the top 25 next week. A second consecutive loss to an unranked team on Saturday likely sealed the Cavaliers’ new fate.

After falling on the road at Boston College last game, Virginia fell to Syracuse at home.  The Orange earned an unlikely overtime win while also avenging its season-opening home loss to the ‘Hoos.

Hitting some massive three-pointers once overtime started, the Orange played completely free and with a lot of confidence once the extra session started. It also pointed to a continuing glaring issue Virginia has faced. Who is this team’s go-to player when they need a bucket?

Things don’t get easier for Virginia when they head on the road to Florida State next game. With three of their next four coming on the road, the Cavaliers have some work to do to stay with the ACC’s best.

GONZAGA AND DUKE CRUISE TO VICTORY

Easy day for No. 1 and No. 2 on Saturday.

Gonzaga made quick work of Loyola Marymount. The Bulldogs won by 25 on the road.

In the ACC, Duke ran past Wake Forest. The Blue Devils were fueled by Tre Jones in a 31-point victory.

MYLES POWELL, SETON HALL OUTDUEL MARKUS HOWARD, MARQUETTE

CBT’s Preseason All-America Team featured Myles Powell and Markus Howard both on the first team.

So Saturday’s Big East clash between Seton Hall and Marquette was must-see TV. Both stars finished an identical 8-for-22 from the field as Howard dropped 27 points and Powell delivered 23 points.

Most importantly, however, was the Pirates claiming the 69-55 Big East win. Seton Hall has six straight wins since Powell returned to the lineup from a concussion. Saturday’s win gives the Pirates a leg up on the rest of the league and Powell a leg up on Howard with one matchup to go.

Not many people seem to be talking about Seton Hall. That’s a mistake. This team is playing really well over the last several weeks and look like the possible team to beat in the Big East.

Dayton’s Obi Toppin leaves UMass win with sprained ankle

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Obi Toppin left Dayton’s win over UMass on Saturday with an apparent sprained ankle.

The Flyers’ leading scorer hurt the ankle while Dayton led UMass by 25. Toppin returned to the game several minutes later. Eventually, the redshirt sophomore forward was pulled and watched the final minutes of the win with a protective boot on his right foot.

Toppin finished with 16 points as Dayton improved to 3-0 in A-10 league play. Dayton head coach Anthony Grant addressed Toppin’s injury to the media following the win.

“A sprained ankle is the indication right now,” Grant said after the game. “I think the next 24 hours will tell us more in terms of how it reacts.”

“It was good to see him able to walk on his own power back to the bench,” Grant continued.

Obi Toppin has become one of college basketball’s best stories during the 2019-20 season. Seemingly out of nowhere, Toppin helped revive Dayton into a top-25 program. Toppin’s strong play also put his name firmly on the NBA Draft radar. Putting up 19.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game, Toppin is a major asset on both ends of the floor for the Flyers.

Dayton has an important game against VCU coming up in A-10 play this week. It’s the start of a critical stretch for the Flyers in the Atlantic 10 schedule. The next five games see Dayton play five of the conference’s top contenders.

It’ll be interesting to see how Toppin’s status potentially changes during the week. As Grant indicated postgame, the next 24 hours or so will tell us a lot about Toppin’s future.

If Dayton has to play without its leading scorer, they still have a strong NCAA tournament profile as the No. 15 team in the country. But the Flyers still need to be cautious bringing back Toppin. This could be a defining stretch of conference play that could help determine the regular-season title.

No. 13 Dayton pulls away late for 71-58 win over North Texas

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DAYTON, Ohio — Jalen Crutcher banged knees with a North Texas player and went down hard in the second half. But just as the Flyers have done all season, he was back in place for the big shot at the end.

Crutcher scored 16 points and hit a comeback-blunting 3-pointer Tuesday night, Ryan Mikesell also had 16 points, and No. 13 Dayton finally shook free at the end for a 71-58 victory over North Texas.

The Flyers (9-1) took the court with their highest ranking since December 1968, when they made it as high as No. 6. A sloppy second half — eight turnovers — kept it close.

“Part of the growth I want to see us make as a team,” coach Anthony Grant said. “They turned the pressure up and we made some poor decisions.”

North Texas (4-7) cut the lead to nine with six minutes left, but Crutcher hit an unguarded 3-pointer that blunted the comeback as the Mean Green fell short in their bid for a fourth all-time win over a ranked team.

Crutcher bumped his left knee with a North Texas player early in the second half and sat out for several minutes before returning and steadying Dayton down the stretch. The Flyers allowed North Texas to stay in it by turning the ball over and allowing the Mean Green open shots.

“In the second half, they’re a team that’s desperate and they made some 3s,” Crutcher said.

Javion Hamlet had 19 points, and Zachary Simmons added 18 points and a team-high six rebounds for North Texas. After missing all four of its shots from beyond the arc in the first half, North Texas went 9 of 15 in the second half.

The Mean Green tied the school record with 19 3-pointers during their last game, a 23-point win over Little Rock. Dayton extended its defense and made sure there would be no repeat. The Mean Green missed six of their first seven shots — only one from beyond the arc — while Dayton pulled ahead 14-2.

The Flyers’ surge stalled, and North Texas kept it within single digits most of the half. Obi Toppin and Mikesell hit 3s during a late first-half run that built the lead to 16 points.

The Mean Green made four 3s in a row — each by a different player — to open the second half and eventually cut it to 57-48 on Umoja Gibson’s 3-pointer. Crutcher’s open 3 from the corner blunted the comeback. North Texas turned it over twice in the final minute to help Dayton put it away.

The game took on an edge during an inbounds play in the second half, with players jawing at each other. The referees separated the teams and gave technical fouls to North Texas’ James Reese and Dayton’s Trey Landers.

BIG PICTURE

North Texas: The Mean Green also played their first two games against ranked teams close, losing by three points to VCU and by nine against Utah State. North Texas’ last win over a ranked team came on Feb. 27, 1971, a 79-73 victory at Louisville.

Dayton: The Flyers came in with the best field goal percentage in Division I (54%) and the most assists (20.1) per game. Against North Texas, they shot 50% from the field and had 20 assists on 24 baskets.

KEEPING FOCUSED

The Flyers’ last three home games have been against Houston Baptist, Drake and North Texas. Grant has been on the Flyers in practice to stay focused even though they’re facing a team they’re expected to beat.

“Everybody’s happy we’re ranked No. 13,” Crutcher said. “We’ve just got to keep it going. We can’t let it get to our heads.”

MISSING FLYER

Dayton reserve forward Chase Johnson missed a second straight game because of illness.

FAMILIAR FACES

North Texas has started the same five players in each of its 11 games — Hamlet, Simmons, Gibson, James Reese and Deng Geu.

CONTAINED

Gibson has been the Mean Green’s top player the last six games, averaging 20.2 points per game. Dayton held him to six points on 2-of-9 shooting.

UP NEXT

North Texas hosts UAPB on Saturday.

Dayton plays Colorado on Saturday at the United Center as part of the Chicago Legends event.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top 25

Return to ranks: No. 19 Dayton beats Houston Baptist 99-68

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DAYTON, Ohio — Obi Toppin soared to corral a rebound with his left hand and slammed the ball down, his emphatic dunk the signature moment of Dayton’s return to the rankings.

Toppin scored 17 points and had that dunk off one of his 10 rebounds Tuesday night, leading No. 19 Dayton to a 99-68 victory over Houston Baptist.

The Flyers (6-1) vaulted into the Top 25 after an impressive run at the Maui Invitational that included drubbings of Georgia and Virginia Tech followed by an overtime loss to Kansas in the title game. Dayton hadn’t been ranked in the Top 25 since February 2016.

Back on the mainland, Dayton struggled before pulling away from the depleted Huskies (0-6), who are in a brutal opening stretch of road games. They’d given up 100 points in each of their last three losses against Texas Tech, Michigan and Houston.

The Huskies led for much of the first half, before Dayton’s size and depth started wearing them down. The Flyers looked as though their first ranking in years had softened them a bit.

“You’re human — OK, 19th in the country, you get a little bit of a big head,” said Trey Landers, who had 16 points and eight rebounds. “I think it was good that they humbled us a little bit. So we needed that.”

Their best player was the constant.

Toppin was the Atlantic 10’s top freshman last season and has been the catalyst in the Flyers’ breakout run, scoring at least 20 points in all but two games. The forward opened the game with a dunk on an alley-oop pass from Jalen Crutcher and went high to snare a rebound with his left hand and slam it down.

Toppin finished with his third double-double of the season in only 24 minutes.

“Obi is Obi,” Landers said. “Everybody else, we play to our strengths. We’re just starting to figure out what we can do individually.”

Jalon Gates led an early Huskies surge, scoring 16 points in the first eight minutes. He was the focus of Dayton’s defense the rest of the way and got off only three more shots, missing them all. Ian DuBose, the All-Southland Conference guard, started despite a sore ankle and had 18 points in 32 minutes.

The Huskies threw a chill into the Flyers early as Gates made five straight shots — four from beyond the arc — for a 22-13 lead, silencing the crowd at University of Dayton Arena. But the Flyers started wearing down Houston Baptist late in the first half. Jhery Matos hit back-to-back 3-pointers during a 10-0 run that put Dayton up 40-35.

“When you’re dealing with young people, sometimes you have to get a reality check,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “Maybe the first 10 minutes tonight was something of that.

“A lot of our errors in the first half were mental things. They got about 16 points off our mistakes. At halftime, it was more about being able to flush whatever happened and come out and play the way we felt we were capable of playing.”

The Flyers made 15 of their first 22 shots in the second half while pulling away.

BIG PICTURE

Houston Baptist: The Huskies are short-handed with three players missing time, including forward Benjamin Uloko.

Dayton: The Flyers got one home game between tournaments. They head to Phoenix for the Basketball Hall of Fame’s Colangelo Classic next weekend.

LOPSIDED

Dayton’s last four wins have been by 25, 19, 27 and 31 points.

MORE MINUTES

Dayton junior center Jordy Tshimanga played his third game since returning from a knee injury and went 13 minutes — more than the last two games combined — with five rebounds and eight points.

UP NEXT

Houston Baptist hosts Samford on Saturday, the Huskies’ only home game in their first 10.

Dayton plays Saint Mary’s in Phoenix on Sunday.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top 25

Three Things to Know: Stephen F. Austin stuns Duke at buzzer; Michigan State outlasts Anthony Edwards

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A full day of college basketball continued on Tuesday night with the Maui Invitational and Legends Classic among the marquee attractions.

But it was a massive upset in dramatic fashion that had the sports world talking as No. 1 Duke was stunned with its first home loss to a non-conference team since 2000.

1. Stephen F. Austin stuns No. 1 Duke on buzzer-beating layup

The play, the upset, the loss we’ll all be talking about for quite some time. The Lumberjacks stunned the No. 1 Blue Devils with an overtime win on Tuesday night as Nathan Bain raced down Cameron Indoor Stadium and released his uncontested layup just before time expired.

This is the third time the No. 1 team has lost this season — the second time that No. 1 has fallen to an unranked mid-major at home. More on this one here as Bain’s moment and Stephen F. Austin’s win is one of the biggest upsets in college basketball in the past 20 years.

2. No. 3 Michigan State outlasts Anthony Edwards, Georgia

Afternoon consolation hoops at the Maui Invitational saw No. 3 Michigan State build a 28 point lead before Anthony Edwards nearly single-handedly brought Georgia back with his second-half performance. Edwards scored 33 of his 37 points in the second half, putting on one of the more memorable stretches of play at the Maui Invitational.

Despite all of that, the Spartans held on for the win as Cassius Winston had another outstanding game. I have more on this game, with some of Edwards’ ridiculous highlights.

3. No. 4 Kansas, Dayton advance to Maui Invitational finals with wins

The championship of the Maui Invitational is set for Wednesday night as No. 4 Kansas and Dayton both won in the semifinals to set up the unexpected clash.

Continuing their impressive national showcase, the Flyers ousted Virginia Tech with an impressive 89-62 win. Sophomore forward Obi Toppin paced Dayton with 24 points as he continues to draw national attention.

Toppin and the Flyers get a major test in the No. 4 Jayhawks after they took down BYU. Kansas and Dayton is the unlikely Maui final that could deliver some interesting subplots.

Toppin is drawing considerable NBA buzz this week. Seeing him battle the Jayhawks’ massive frontline of Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack should be a lot of fun.