UD squanders a late lead, gets outscored badly in the last five minutes of the game, and loses to Mississippi State.
DAYTON — The University of Dayton basketball team was in control, UD Arena was rocking and rolling like a U2 concert, Flyers point guard Jalen Crutcher was controlling the basketball like big brother playing keep-away from little brother and the Mississippi State basketball team was in disarray.
Then before anybody could say, “One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi,” there was total upheaval.
Trailing by seven points with six minutes to play, MSU coach Ben Howland called a 30-second timeout. And what he said in those 30 seconds was even shorter than Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, but something clicked.
In the next 5 1/2 minutes Mississippi State outscored the Flyers, 17-4. UD’s 51-44 lead dissipated into a 61-55 deficit with 28 seconds left.
And when the horn sounded, UD (4-3) was a 65-58 loser in a game they led for 28 1/2 minutes of the 40-minute game.
It has been a common thread over Dayton’s last three games, all losses to excellent teams, a thread the other team yanked on and pulled the Flyers apart.
In succession, they’ve lost to No. 4 Virginia, highly-talented Oklahoma and No. 25 Mississippi State (6-1). In all three the Flyers were in position to win but lost the pole position down the stretch.
“When we look at the films, we’ll see opportunities where we have to be able to control the things we can control,” said UD coach Anthony Grant. “We’ll be able to see a multitude of opportunities, whether it is the last five minutes, or earlier, like the way we started the second half tonight. We have to get to the point where we understand the value of each and every possession, whether it is offense or defense.”
There were three lulls for the Flyers that turned into lullabies Friday night.
And the Flyers were on flat-line to start the second half as one-half of the Weatherspoon Brothers scored five quick points during a 9-0 breakaway to push MSU to a 35-31 lead.
That brother was MSU’s leading scorer, Quinndary Weatherspoon. He entered the game averaging 17 and the Flyers clogged him in the first half, only four points. But his brother, Nick Weatherspoon, averaging 11 points a game, picked up his brother’s first-half slack with eight points.
They both steamrollered the Flyers in the second half as Quinndary added 17 in the final 20 minutes for 21 and Nick finished with 14.
And the family trail doesn’t end with Quindarry and Nick. “We have a little brother in high school who is going to be better than both of us,” said Quindarry.
“The Weatherspoons are outstanding and guard Lamar Peters (eight assists, five rebounds) is 0ne of the fastest guards I’ve played against in college,” said UD’s Ryan Mikesell, who led all UD scorers with 15 points. “They are going to have some success in the SEC and there is a reason they are in the Top 25. The Weatherspoons? That’s a pretty good basketball family there.”
Mikesell did his best to stem the tide — and Tide is a bad word to use in Mississippi. After the 9-0 MSU rush pushed the Bulldogs in front by four, Mikesell hit two threes and an offensive rebound follow-up.
Both Mikesell and Jalen Crutcher, who scored 11 points and dished out seven assists, said late-game defense was the demon in all three losses.
“We had ‘em, we were ahead most of the game,” said Mikesell. “The last four minutes seems to be the common thing and we have to clean that up. We have to tone it down defensively. I don’t know if it’s toughness or experience. We have a young team. We have to close games, win those close games.”
Crutcher, a native of Memphis, right on the Mississippi line, said Ole Miss talked to him about playing there but Mississippi State ignored him.
He said he played AAU ball, “Three or four times against No. 0.” That would be Nick Weatherspoon, he of the 14 points. “Just another player. There are no friends on the court from another team.
“They made lot of shots down the stretch and we didn’t bring it on defense down the stretch so they made a lot of shots,” said Crutcher. “We didn’t have the energy down the stretch that we had the first half. We have to be more hungry on defense. We just have to lock it down on defense.”
Coach Grant is pleased with the way Crutcher operates the offense, directing traffic and getting the ball where it needs to be.
“He was solid and he will be a focal point on every team’s scouting report,” said Grant. “They crowded him tonight on the pick-and-roll and put two men on the ball. He did a good job — seven assists and only three turnovers. He ran the team well. He was solid.”
Mikesell believes Crutcher is a water moccasin or a cottonmouth or a diamondback.
“He is the head of our snake because he runs the offense,” said Mikesell. “When people play with him out there, you feel real comfortable. He is a laid-back guy with silent confidence.”
The comparisons between Crutcher and Scoochie Smith, the star guard who graduated two years ago, are inevitable. Asked if he hears the comparisons, he didn’t take the bait and said, “It don’t bother me, it’s cool,” but smiled when asked if he is better looking and said, “Yeah, of course.”