Sports writer Thomas Lofaro takes a look back at the biggest games of the Flyers men’s basketball team’s incredible 2019-20 run, which culminated in being crowned A-10 regular season champions on March 7, 2020. Photo courtesy of Keegan Gupta, Flyer News.
OVERVIEW: Before the COVID 19 Pandemic changed the lives of people around the world and halted the world of sports, the University of Dayton men’s basketball team was having an extraordinary season. The Dayton squad held a 29-2 overall record along with a perfect 18-0 Atlantic 10 conference record. The team had a season full of special games and highlights, undoubtedly on their way to earning a No. 1 seed in the 2020 NCAA tournament. Here is a list of their ten best games of the 2019-2020 season:
10: A10 CONFERENCE GAME @ RICHMOND (1/25/20)
Game Summary: Obi Toppin put on an absolute dunking clinic against Richmond, showcasing his high flying ability on multiple fast breaks. This was one of Dayton’s more competitive conference games of the season, but there was little worry that UD would not come out victorious. The Flyers won the game, 87-79 and gained an 18-2 record.
Leading Scorer: Obi Toppin (22 PTS 2 AST 10 REB)
Key Moment: A series of impressive slams by Dayton forward and future Naismith College Player of the Year winner, Obi Toppin.
9: AIR FORCE RESERVE JERRY COLANGELO CLASSIC VS. SAINT MARY’S (12/8/19)
Game Summary: Dayton met an unfamiliar opponent in Saint Mary’s at the Air Force Reserve Jerry Colangelo Classic at Phoenix Suns Arena. Saint Mary’s came into the matchup with an impressive 9-1 record, but proved to be no match for the historic Dayton squad. UD ran away with the game in the first half, and even though Saint Mary’s had an effective second half they would still be defeated. The Flyers won 78-68.
Leading Scorer: Jalen Crutcher (21 PTS 6 AST 4 REB)
Key Moment: Outstanding half court lob from Rodney Chatman finding Obi Toppin for a terrific alley-oop.
8: MAUI JIM MAUI INVITATIONAL VS. GEORGIA (11/25/19)
Game Summary: Dayton would impressively win against future #1 overall pick in the NBA Draft in Anthony Edwards and the Georgia Bulldogs in the first round of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. This game was projected to be close but the Bulldogs could not keep up with Toppin and the Flyers, as they rolled to an 80-61 victory. For Atlantic 10 teams, it is important to pick up wins against power-five conference teams (SEC, BIG 10, BIG 12, PAC 12, ACC), and that is exactly what the Flyers did against the SEC’s Georgia Bulldogs.
Leading Scorer: Obi Toppin (25 PTS 4 REB)
Key Moment: Dayton did an outstanding job guarding talented guard Anthony Edwards, as Rodney Chatman and the Flyers held him to only 6 points.
- MAUI JIM MAUI INVITATIONAL VS. VIRGINIA TECH (11/26/19)
Game Summary: In the second round of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational the Dayton Flyers picked up a win against a previously-undefeated Virginia Tech team that had just beat Michigan State the round before. Obi Toppin put together an impressive performance, slowly gaining more and more attention around the country. The Flyers won emphatically, 89-62.
Leading Scorer: Obi Toppin (24 PTS 1 AST 8 REB)
Key Moment: Obi Toppin making nine straight points for the Flyers exclusively from behind the three point line, something he’s not usually known for.
- A10 CONFERENCE GAME VS. RHODE ISLAND (2/11/20)
Game Summary: Toppin and the Flyers put on an absolute clinic against the Rhode Island Rams, building a 49-35 halftime lead that would prove too much for the Rams to overcome. The Flyers won the game 81-67, with one of the headlines being Obi facing off against his younger brother, Jacob Toppin, a former forward for the Rams who transferred to Kentucky after the 2019-20 season.
Leading Scorer: Obi Toppin (22 PTS 10 REB)
Key Moment: Obi Toppin’s windmill dunk over his brother, Jacob, who fouled Obi on the play.
- A10 CONFERENCE GAME VS. GEORGE WASHINGTON (3/7/20)
In a game that ended with the Flyers cutting down the nets, the Flyers ran over GW in the second half to close a perfect 18-0 A-10 record. Photo courtesy of Keegan Gupta, Flyer News.
Game Summary: A historic day for the University of Dayton as the school was rewarded with the presence of ESPN’s College Gameday on campus. UD Arena was jam packed to watch the final game of the regular season, which would turn out to be the final game of the season with the upcoming cancellation of the postseason. The Flyers won 76-51 in a game that exhibited all the tools of the UD men’s basketball team.
Leading Scorer: Obi Toppin (27 PTS 5 AST 5 REB)
Key Moment: A list of amazing Obi Toppin dunks that included a between the legs dunk that absolutely electrified the crowd along the UD bench.
- CHICAGO LEGENDS VS. COLORADO (12/21/19)
Game Summary: This would be UD’s second and final loss of the season, falling 78-76 in OT to the University of Colorado. Although the Flyers lost this game, they still showed great promise against a tough UC team that would finish the year 20-7. One of the closest games UD played all year that caused a lot of excitement despite the devastating loss.
Leading Scorer (UD): Jalen Crutcher (19 PTS 4 AST 5 REB)
Key Moment: Obi Toppin’s game tying 3-point basket with 5.8 seconds left in regulation that would send the game into overtime.
- A10 CONFERENCE GAME @ VCU (2/18/20)
Game Summary: One of the key games that asserted Dayton’s dominance in the Atlantic 10 Conference. With VCU being one of the conference’s more dangerous basketball programs, it was impressive how Dayton came in and handled their business on the road. Dayton came out victorious 66-61, improving to 24-2 at the time.
Leading Scorer: Jalen Crutcher (18 PTS 2 REB)
Key Moment: Jalen Crutcher’s impressive poster dunk that was very significant because Crutcher is not considered a “high flyer” like his former teammate, Obi.
- MAUI JIM MAUI INVITATIONAL VS. KANSAS (11/27/19)
Game Summary: This was one of the most crucial games of the Flyers’ season because it put them in the national spotlight: the championship game of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, where they would meet a very talented Kansas team that was ranked No. 1 at the end of the regular season. Going toe to toe with one of the nation’s talented blueblood programs would give them a lot of attention and propel them to earn a national ranking. The Flyers fell 90-84 in OT, but their historic season was underway.
Leading Scorer: Ryan Mikesell (19 PTS 4 AST 5 REB)
Key Moment: TIE between Obi Toppin’s three point basket that he did not need to watch, as he turned to the Kansas bench to let them know what he is all about, and Jalen Crutcher’s clutch three point bucket that would send the game to overtime and preview his clutch gene as a long range shooter.
- A10 CONFERENCE GAME @ SAINT LOUIS (1/17/20)
Game Summary: One of the very few games of the season where UD had to come from behind to win, the Flyers would win in overtime on an amazing last second shot by guard Jalen Crutcher that stuck a dagger in the heart of Saint Louis. Dayton overcame an 8 point halftime deficit to force overtime where Crutcher would eventually win it for his squad. The Flyers would win one of the most, if not the most memorable games of their phenomenal season, 78-76.
Leading Scorer: Jalen Crutcher (21 PTS 2 AST 1 REB)
Key Moment: Jalen Crutcher’s game winning three point basket with 0.1 seconds left on the clock. Crutcher gained possession with 6.1 seconds remaining and flew down the floor and hit a clutch three point bucket that silenced the SLU crowd and hyped up the Flyer bench.
CONCLUSION: The University of Dayton community will never forget the 2019-20 basketball season, but will also never know what would have happened had the COVID-19 pandemic not occurred. The memories of these games will live close to the hearts of Dayton fans forever, as it was undoubtedly one of the most exciting seasons in program history.