As No. 13 Dayton prepares to host Virginia Commonwealth on Tuesday, the Flyers and their fans are holding their breath.
Obi Toppin, one of the nation’s best players, injured his left ankle in Saturday’s Atlantic-10 home opener against Massachusetts. Toppin, a redshirt sophomore who last week was named to the 2020 Wooden Award midseason watch list, recorded 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting, four rebounds, three assists and five steals before getting tangled up at half court early in the second half and landing hard on his ankle.
Toppin limped off the court to a hushed Dayton crowd and came back to the bench in a walking boot.
“Sprained ankle is the indication right now,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant told reporters in his postgame news conference. “I think the next 24 hours will tell us more in terms of how it reacts, but it was good to see him be able to walk back to the bench under his own power. The last three minutes of the game, he was there in good spirits.”
It’s too early to know if Toppin will be available for the Flyers (14-2, 3-0 A-10) against VCU (12-4, 2-1). Toppin is averaging 19.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He is making 63 percent of his field-goal attempts and connects on nearly 70 percent of his free throws.
“I talked to him on the bench, and he was joking around,” forward Ryan Mikesell said. “I don’t know the specifics, but obviously, (trainer Mike Mulcahey)’s going to do his best to get him to play on Tuesday. If not, it’s the next-man-up mentality. We’ll go with what we have.”
If Toppin can’t play, his absence surely will be missed. But it’s not like the cupboard is bare for Grant.
Four other players score in double figures and a fifth chips in with 9.0 points per game. The Flyers score 83.4 points per game, fifth in the nation, and allow only 64.9 points a contest.
While Dayton has won five in a row and is coming off a 28-point win over UMass, the Rams lost their conference opener to Rhode Island.
VCU’s defense is strong enough to keep the Rams in any game as they allow just 60.9 points per game, 28th in the nation. Now if coach Mike Rhoades can find some consistency on offense.
Against Rhode Island, the Rams executed their game plan and took 10 more shots than their opponent but made only 31 percent of their field-goal tries.
“We got downhill, we just didn’t finish enough at the rim. That lack of finish on offense affected everything,” Rhoades told commonwealthtimes.com. “We weren’t flying around, and then when we did start flying around and our style of play got going, we turned it over.”
Marcus Santos-Silva leads the Rams in scoring (13.1) and rebounding (9.0). He’s recorded six double-doubles this season.
Guards Marcus Evans and De’Riante Jenkins provide some pop in the backcourt, combining for 11.1 and 10.8 points, respectively.
Rhoades relishes playing the nation’s No. 13-ranked team. The Flyers will be a good barometer of his team’s mettle.
“It’s the A-10. It’s college basketball. (Let’s) find out what we’re made of,” Rhoades said. “It’s going to be crazy, it’s going to be tough. But sign us up, let’s go.”
–Field Level Media