By Kevin Sweeney
Dayton got the look they wanted.
Down 3 and on a 7-0 run, the Flyers got a wide-open look from the corner for 45% 3-point shooter Ryan Mikesell.
But like most of UD’s shots in this one, it rimmed out.
The Flyers shot just 5-23 from downtown, and Tulsa took advantage to win 72-67 Sunday evening in a game played as part of the Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase at Mohegan Sun Arena. Martins Igbanu led the way for the Golden Hurricanes with 17 points.
After a Showcase opener that featured a nearly 2.5 hour game and 56 fouls, game #2 moved at a much more brisk pace, finishing in under two hours. Despite the significant travel to get to Connecticut, Frank Haith’s club came out firing on all cylinders early. The Golden Hurricanes exploded out to an early 27-13 lead capped by a big dunk by DaQuan Jeffries. Jeffries was instrumental in the opening period, posting 12 points. But Dayton answered nicely with a 17-3 half-closing run to tie the score going into intermission.
Tulsa regained control in the second half thanks to Igbanu, who had 14 of his 17 points in the second half. Their lead stretched to as many as 10 with 2:28 to play, and it looked like the Golden Hurricanes would run away with it. But the Flyers had one more answer in them, responding with a pair of key stops on the defensive end and 3 straight quick buckets on offense to cut the deficit to just 3 with 50 seconds to play. After another stop, the Flyers had a chance to tie it, but Mikesell’s shot fell off and free throws by Tulsa’s Curran Scott sealed the deal.
The loss continues a frustrating stretch for the Flyers, as they have now lost 5 of their last 6 games after a 4-0 start. UD has had its chances for resume-boosting wins against Mississippi State, Auburn, Oklahoma, Virginia, and now Tulsa in the stretch, but despite competing in all those games were unable to come away with a big win. They’ll likely need to win the A10 Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament.
Dayton was led by 15 points from Josh Cunningham and 14 from Jalen Crutcher. Obi Toppin and Trey Landers each added 13 for the Flyers.
With the win, Tulsa stays hot with its 4th consecutive win. With wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma State, Haith’s team has acquitted itself well in the non-conference and should be seen as a legit AAC contender. The Golden Hurricanes have one more game before opening conference play January 2 at undefeated Houston.