DAYTON, Ohio -- Obi Toppin landed with a loud thud and grabbed his left ankle. The capacity crowd at University of Dayton Arena went silent as the Flyers' top player lay on the court.
Dayton's spectacular season had hit a speed bump.
Toppin scored 16 points before leaving with an ankle injury early in the second half Saturday, giving 15th-ranked Dayton a scare while it pulled away to an 88-60 victory over UMass.
“A sprained ankle is the indication right now,” coach Anthony Grant said. “I think the next 24 hours will tell us more in terms of how it reacts."
Dayton (14-2, 3-0 Atlantic 10) took control right away, building a 20-point lead, and remained unbeaten at home. The Flyers used their front-line advantage and frequently found Toppin — Dayton's top front-line scorer — open for layups and dunks to get the big early lead.
Then came a moment that startled the crowd.
Toppin got tangled with Samba Diallo at midcourt and went down hard at 15:13 of the second half, grabbing his left ankle. Both players lay on the court for several minutes before walking off, Toppin with a slight limp as he headed for the locker room.
Diallo returned to the game a few minutes later. Late in the game, Toppin returned to the bench with a protective boot on his left foot and watched the final minutes.
“It was good to see him able to walk on his own power back to the bench," Grant said.
The Flyers didn't need him to finish off UMass (7-9, 1-2), but they could be missing their best player entering the heart of conference play.
UMass never recovered from the Flyers' opening surge. Tre Mitchell led the Minutemen with 16 points. UMass had 21 turnovers, including six during a 4:50 spurt as Dayton took control early in the game.
“They're a young team, we are a veteran team,” said Dayton's Trey Landers, who added 13 points. “With us coming out in the first half and putting a foot on their neck, that helped us out a lot.”
Dayton dominated inside during its quick start. The Flyers' first nine points came off layups or free throws. Jalen Crutcher opened the game with a steal and layup, and Ryan Mikesell got a rebound and drove the length of the court for a dunk as Dayton made it 9-0.
"I king of saw the seas parted, and I took off," said Mikesell, who finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Reserve guard Ibi Watson hit a 3 and had a steal and layup that put Dayton in control at 27-7. The Flyers led by as many as 27 in the opening half.
“We just played really, really timid to where we got down and just couldn't find the fight to get back into it,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “We've got a lot of growing up to do in order to win a basketball game like that.”
UMass: The Minutemen opened the season 5-0 for the first time in six seasons. They've since dropped nine of 11 and lost seven straight games away from home with a lineup that includes two freshmen starters.
Dayton: The Flyers moved up five spots in the Top 25 this week after back-to-back wins in Philadelphia over La Salle and Saint Joseph's. Their highest ranking this season was No. 13.
The Flyers lead the series 15-14, winning the last three.
In the last three games, UMass has had a season-high 25 turnovers, 17 and 21. Dayton had 12 steals and scored 20 points off turnovers.
NOT THIS TIME
The Minutemen haven't beaten a Top 15 team since Jan. 16, 2008, when they knocked off No. 14 Dayton. They've played two ranked teams in a season for the first time since 2008-09. They also lost to No. 7 Virginia 58-46 on Nov. 23.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“They played like men, we played like boys and we coached like boys,” McCall said. “It's not just on our players, it's on all of us to understand how mistake-free and how hard you have to play to win a game like that. It starts with the mentality going on the floor. Our lack of fight in the first half was disappointing.”
UMass plays at St. Bonaventure on Wednesday.
Dayton hosts VCU on Tuesday.
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