DAYTON, Ohio (AP)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 rankingsince 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.
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.
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.”
Dayton reserve forward Chase Johnson missed a second straight game because of illness.
North Texas has started the same five players in each of its 11 games – Hamlet, Simmons, Gibson, James Reese and Deng Geu.
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.
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