SMU looking for 4-0 start in clash with Dayton

NCAA Basketball

SMU and Dayton both look to remain undefeated when they meet in a nonconference game on Saturday in Dayton, Ohio.

The Mustangs (3-0) have opened their season by overwhelming teams from the Southland Conference, defeating Sam Houston State, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Houston Baptist by an average of 31.3 points.

After a sluggish first half against Houston Baptist on Wednesday, the Mustangs outscored the Huskies 53-31 in the second half to cruise to a 102-75 win. Kendric Davis and Ethan Chargois each scored a game-high 20 points, with Chargois adding nine rebounds. Feron Hunt posted 18 points and 11 rebounds, with Darius McNeill, who sat out last season after transferring from California, adding 13 points.

“It gave me like my old self back,” McNeill told The Dallas Morning News. “Like the Darius McNeill that was in the Pac-12, my game, a little flashback, that’s what it gave me. It just helped me know that I can get my groove back slowly.”

SMU has high expectations this season. The Mustangs were 19-11 overall and 9-9 in the American Athletic Conference and a contender to make the NCAA Tournament last year before it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dayton (1-0) has won 21 straight games, which includes the past 20 games of last season, making it the third-longest winning streak in school history The Flyers were 29-2 last season, including 18-0 in Atlantic 10 play.

Playing its first game without Obi Toppin, who won the Wooden Award as the most outstanding college basketball player in the U.S. last year, Dayton had a much tougher time in its opener this past Tuesday.

A 66-63 victory wasn’t secured until Eastern Illinois’ Josiah Wallace missed a game-tying 3-pointer attempt in the final seconds.

Toppin, who was selected eighth overall by the New York Knicks in last month’s NBA draft, was the only player in the country last year who averaged 20.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and shot 63.3 percent from the field, which was the highest field-goal percentage of any Division I player who averaged 20 points a game in the past five seasons.

Dayton also lost guard Trey Landers, who averaged 10.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game and has since signed with a professional team in Germany.

The Flyers filled the void left by Toppin and Landers by using a balanced offense, which will likely be the key to Dayton making a run at the NCAA Tournament.

Ibi Watson scored a game-high 16 points and collected six rebounds to lead four Flyers who finished in double digits. Chase Johnson finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, Jalen Crutcher scored 13 points with a game-high six assists and Jordy Tshimanga adding 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds.

Dayton’s previous games against Bellarmine and Alcorn State, as well as this Tuesday’s game against Purdue-Fort Wayne, were canceled due to COVID-19 issues.

“It’s been a long wait for our guys,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant told the Dayton Daily News. “I know they were excited. We’re grateful Eastern Illinois was able to make this happen on such short notice. We’re happy to get one under our belt. We had spurts where we played well and spurts where we showed we have a lot to prove.”

–Field Level Media

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