The Indiana State men’s basketball team travels to Ohio Saturday at 7 p.m. to take on the Dayton Flyers to kick off the 2019-2020 season. The Sycamores look to start strong in their opener against a very strong basketball program at Dayton. ISU Head Basketball Coach Greg Lansing spoke to the excitement surrounding the game.

 “It’s an exciting time with the season opener, said Lansing. “It’s a brand new season, brand new team, a lot of energy and enthusiasm, there’s a lot of things you want to get accomplished. It’s just one game but we’re playing a very good team in a tremendous environment and it’s a destination that is close enough for our fans to come, so we’re just looking forward to it”. 

Dayton is coming off of a strong 2018-2019 campaign where they finished 21-12, including a 13-5 record in Atlantic 10 Conference. This earned Dayton  a No. 5 seed in the NIT, before being defeated in the first round to No.4 seeded Colorado. 

Dayton is led by two preseason All-Atlantic 10 players, redshirt freshman forward Obi Toppin and junior guard Jalen Crutcher. Toppin led Dayton in scoring last season, averaging 14.4 points per game, and averaged 5.6 rebounds per game in all of the Flyer’s 33 games. Toppin was efficient with his shot selection as he finished fourth in the entire NCAA with a field goal percentage of 66.6 percent. Toppin was the first A-10 Rookie of the Year in Dayton history, was the first freshman to be named to the First Team All-A-10 Team, and ranked second nationally in dunks (including a Dayton school record 83 dunks last year). 

Crutcher was named to the Third Team All-A-10, averaging 13.2 points per game and led the team in assists (187) and three-pointers made (70) a season ago. Toppin was named to the First Team All-A-10 team, while Crutcher was named to the Second Team All-A-10 team. 

“Really good team, really deep, really athletic. They can do a lot of things, they have a guy that’s touted as one of the top 25 players in the country,” said Lansing. “(They’re) well coached. (They’re) a hard-playing group. I think both of us will go into that game knowing a little bit about each other, but you’re going to have to put your feet into the fire and find out real quick.” 

The Sycamores have been predicted to finish sixth in the conference this year, out of the ten teams. The Sycamores come off of an eighth-place finish last season, with a 7-11 record in the Missouri Valley Conference and a 15-16 record overall. ISU struggled on the road last year, going 4-9 in away games compared to a respectable 9-5 record in Terre Haute. 

Dayton will pose a large road challenge to ISU, as the Flyers are always an NCAA tournament contender, with eight appearances in the tournament since 2000, including four since 2010 (the last coming in 2017). 

ISU guard Tyreke Key returns for his junior season to lead the Sycamores. Last season, Key led the Missouri Valley Conference in points per game, averaging 17.4 points in 31 games. Key shot 52.5 percent from the field, including 44.8 percent from three. Key was named captain of the MVC Most Improved Team and earned a spot on the All-MVC Second Team in his breakout year last season. Joining Key in the backcourt is senior guard Jordan Barnes. Barnes averaged 14.6 points per game last season in 30 appearances. Barnes is currently tied at third on the all-time Indiana State career three-pointers made list with 215. Barnes struggled last year, only making 57 shots and shooting 33.3 percent from beyond the arc, he looks to bounce back to the play of his sophomore season in which he shot 42.1 percent and made 117 shots over the course of the 2017-2018. Barnes is efficient from the free throw line, as he shot 86.6 percent last season and holds a school record for 30 consecutive makes from the charity stripe. Together these two are projected to combine for the large amount of the scoring for the Sycamores, and both are Pre-Season All-MVC selections, Key on the first team and Barnes on the second team. 

Tune in on 97.9 FM WIBQ to listen to all the action at 7 p.m. Saturday for the exciting matchup.