The Dayton Flyers were upset by CU-Bolder in Chicago on Dec. 21, 2019. Photo courtesy of Griffin Quinn.
The No. 13 Dayton Flyers lost to the Colorado Buffaloes, 78-76, in the final seconds of overtime in its Chicago Legends game at the United Center in Chicago on Saturday.
The final score is reminiscent of the pair’s 2019 NIT contest in which Colorado knocked out Dayton in the first round, 78-73.
There were seven lead changes in the matchup that ultimately needed every second of the overtime period to determine a winner.
Following the loss, the Flyers dropped five spots to No. 18 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 Poll.
Dayton (9-2) hit the floor running. In the first six minutes, the Flyers’ hot shooting had sprung them to an early 14-point lead.
In the first half, Dayton shot 57.1% from the field and 44.4% from behind the arc. However, an experienced Colorado squad worked its way back into the game and, at the half, the Flyers lead shrunk to just four points.
Coming out of the break, Colorado remained in control. Dayton’s eight second-half turnovers allowed the Buffaloes to take the lead and, midway through the period, led by as many as eight points.
“We have to mature as a team. We really do,” head coach Anthony Grant said when asked about the volume of turnovers. “I think a lot of it is self-inflicted. Maybe it was something that Colorado did that caused us problems. But for the most part, you know, it’s stuff that we need to be able to clean up as a team. If we’re going to reach our potential, we have to do better.”
Grant’s team did its best to overcome these errors and reeled the Buffaloes back within one possession.
After former Dayton-commit McKinley Wright IV knocked down the second of a pair of free throws with 13.8 seconds remaining in regulation, the Flyers found themselves down, 66-63, with an opportunity to tie the Buffaloes and force overtime.
Jalen Crutcher pushed the ball up the floor, received a ball-screen from Obi Toppin who then popped out behind the three-point line, received a pass, and knocked down a shot, tying the game at 66.
Colorado took the ball from the hoop and Wright got one more shot on the other end of the floor, but it would not go and the game headed to overtime.
Prior to the game-tying shot, Toppin was 0-5 behind the arc.
“My teammates were staying with me, had trust in me, telling me to keep shooting if I was open, don’t stop shooting,” Toppin said on the final basket of the second half. “It’s crazy because right before that play, Trey (Landers) was like, ‘if you’re open, shoot the ball.’”
Along with the overtime-forcing three, Toppin finished with 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists and an ESPN Top-10 play.
In overtime, the grudge match resumed: Dayton and Colorado traded baskets up until the very end.
With 10 seconds left in the extra period, Crutcher drove to the lane and put in a go-ahead layup. The Flyers were now up 76-75.
Wright, without hesitation, took the ball to the opposite end of the court and fed Tyler Bey in the post. Bey was met with a double-team by the Flyers and kicked the ball out to D’Shawn Schwartz who had spotted up for a wide-open three-pointer.
Schwartz sank the shot as the United Center’s buzzer rang.
“They threw the ball in the post. We worked on it in practice that we were going to double the post,” Crutcher said. “It was just a good find by (Bey), a good shot [by Shwartz].”
“Obviously the end of the game, the way the game ended, it’s tough to take,” Grant said following the loss. “But we’ll go back and look at some things that we can learn from this game in terms of what we need to do to make sure we don’t have this feeling again.”
In the sport of basketball, point guards possess the ball a lot. So, when well-traveled Dayton fans decided to boo every time Wright touched the ball, they were in for a busy night.
The reason for the boos is no secret: Wright, a three-star prospect from Minnesota, had been committed to Dayton until Archie Miller left to coach at Indiana in 2017.
After the coaching change, Wright elected to attend the University of Colorado.
Flyer fans had no warmth to show the junior guard.
Despite the constant jeers, however, the former Dayton commit lead all scoring with 29 points while also adding 10 rebounds.
“I expected the boos,” Wright said following his team’s victory. “I talked to my teammates this morning, told them I needed this one personally. They responded for me. That was a big-time game.”
The boos during Wright’s performance flooded the United Center and that is because the arena was a red sea of Flyer fans.
Whether those in attendance lived in the surrounding Chicago area or had traveled to the game, their presence was impossible to overlook and appreciated by the Dayton players.
“Our fans are very loyal. They travel everywhere we go,” Toppin said following the game. “They’re amazing. It’s like we got the No. 1 fan base in the world.”
“This is going to show up as a neutral-court game, and it shouldn’t have been,” Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said on the Dayton crowd. “It should be a road game. This was a road win.”
Windy City Whistles
Along with booing Wright, the Dayton crowd had much to say about the officiating of the contest, especially in the second half.
The Flyers were called for 10 second-half fouls compared to Colorado’s six. A larger divide can be seen in Dayton’s mere seven free throws as opposed to Colorado’s 21 attempts from the line.
Regardless, losses count as losses and this one will be a small stain on the Flyers’ resume come March.
After a heartbreaking loss, sometimes the best medicine is to return to the court as soon as possible. Dayton will be doing just that as they will square off with Grambling State (6-6) back at UD Arena on Dec. 23 at 7pm ET. The game can be viewed on ESPN+.