Slim margins were the difference once again in the University of Dayton Flyers’ gritty 85-82 double overtime win over Mississippi State in Atlanta Saturday to improve to 3-1.
Led by senior guards Jalen Crutcher – 23 points on 8-18 shooting from the field, 4 assists, and 2 rebounds – and Ibi Watson – 21 points on 5-12 shooting, 5 assists and 4 rebounds – the Flyers men’s basketball team won a game by two possessions or left.
In this back-and-forth game, the Flyers also relied on redshirt junior forward Chase Johnson – 15 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists – and redshirt senior guard Rodney Chatman – 15 points, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 rebounds.
“I thought our guys grew up to an extent today,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant told Larry Hansgen on WHIO’s postgame radio show. “There were a lot of things that happened in the game, a lot of good things, some things that were bad, some things that were kind of heartbreaking as they occurred. But our guys stayed together. I saw a group that showed resiliency. I’m so proud of them to come out with the win.”
However, turnovers and rebounding once again plagued the Flyers, who fell behind 3-0 early after a turnover led to a Bulldogs lay-up. Crutcher tied the game on a 3-pointer, and thus began a back-and-forth battle which had nearly 20 lead changes. After the game, Crutcher said the win felt “really good.”
“Beating an SEC school is really big for our conference and our team,” Crutcher said. “Since my freshman year, we’ve played Mississippi State every year except last year, and we never did get a win. I was really trying to get this win today.”
By the first media timeout with 15:59 left in the first half, Mississippi State led 8-7. Four minutes later, a Crutcher three gave the Flyers a 16-14 lead with 11:37 left in the half, exemplifying the lead changes that defined Saturday’s game.
Turnover struggles would start to bite the Flyers, who had turned the ball over 7 times by the under-8 media timeout, trailing 21-18 with 7:56 remaining.
The succeeding four minutes, the Flyers went ice cold, missing nine of 10 shots as Mississippi State extended their lead to 27-19 with 3:58 left in the half.
With just 7 points in the last nine minutes of the half, the Flyers went into halftime trailing 33-25. Although Crutcher was up to 12 points and Chatman added 6, the Flyers had 8 turnovers and trailed in offensive rebounds 10-4. Both teams were shooting a decent 43 percent from the field, but second chance points and turnovers left the Flyers in a hole at the break.
However, that hole was quickly filled with a Johnson fadeaway jumper, Chatman lay-up, Johnson 3-pointer, and Chatman steal to breakaway lay-up to give the Flyers a 34-33 lead to start the second half with a 9-0 run three minutes into the half. Mississippi State would add a jumper to take back the lead 35-34 at the under-16 media timeout, but the Flyers were back in the “middle of the ring,” as the ESPNU broadcast crew said.
Even though the rest of the second half was largely a back-and-forth, Mississippi State sophomore guard D.J. Stewart Jr. would begin to go off, making a lay-up, 3-pointer and jumper to give the Bulldogs a 42-38 lead with 11:50 left in the second half. Stewart Jr. would finish with 32 points, a career high.
Another Stewart jumper pushed the Mississippi State lead to six, but the Flyers responded with a Chatman lay-up on a nice feed by Johnson, and a similarly effective pass from Crutcher to Watson for a 3-pointer cut the deficit back down to one with 9:27 left in the half.
By the under-8 media timeout, the Flyers had claimed the lead back at 48-46 with 7:06 left in the half, bolstered by a Crutcher floater and a Johnson post fake to jump step lay-up.
The Flyers’ lead was halved to 54-53 with 4:23 left, but a Johnson dunk (assisted by Crutcher) stretched the lead to 56-53 with 3:42 left at the under-4 media timeout.
A possession after Johnson drew a charge, Chatman stripped the ball, which led to a Watson three to extend the Flyers’ lead to six.
Mississippi State cut that back to two, but Watson was fouled on a corner three and knocked down all three free throws to give the Flyers a 62-57 with 1:57 left in the second half.
However, the Flyers would get just two more free throws on the scoreboard from Watson to close the half, while the Bulldogs got a jumper from Stewart and a jump ball which maintained possession and led to a 3-pointer from the Bulldogs’ leading scorer to tie the game at 62.
The Flyers would fail to score on their next possession, but a loose ball was controlled by redshirt senior Jordy Tshimanga, who passed ahead to Watson. Watson was fouled with 5.5 seconds left, and with the Flyers in the double bonus, knocked down both free throws to give the Flyers a 64-62 lead with little time left.
Bulldogs sophomore guard Iverson Molinar would take full advantage of those 5.5 seconds, though, driving down the floor from the inbound and getting a driving lay-up to fall as the buzzer sounded, sending the game into overtime.
In overtime, the Bulldogs jumped out with a 3-pointer from Stewart, but the Flyers seemed to be going to the line on a rebound by Chatman, who was fouled on the board. However, as Chatman was falling to the ground, he hooked Mississippi State freshman guard Cameron Matthews as he fell and was called for a Flagrant 1 after review. Matthews knocked down one of two free throws, and led 68-64.
Over the next two minutes, the Flyers cut the deficit to two, before the Bulldogs stretched it back to four, 70-66 with 2 minutes left.
Crutcher nailed a deep 3-pointer with 1:52 left, and after Mississippi State got a lay-up to fall, the Flyers trailed 72-69 with 32.3 seconds left.
On the next possession, the Flyers found true freshman guard R.J. Blakney in the corner. The young guard looked like a veteran, calmly sinking his first collegiate three with 16.9 seconds left.
“We were in a situation where we were going for the best shot available,” Grant said. “We needed a 2 or a 3. (Watson) drove it and saw the help coming off and trusted his teammates. For R.J., as a freshman, to step up in that situation and make that shot, that was huge.
The Bulldogs could not get anything to fall on their last possession, and the game was sent to the second overtime tied at 72.
The teams exchanged a couple of makes, but a jumper from Stewart with Watson’s hand gave the Bulldogs a 78-75 lead with three minutes left in the second overtime, forcing a timeout by the Flyers.
Watson then made a deep 3-pointer to tie the game at 78, Tshimanga knocked down 1 of 2 free throws, and the Flyers called timeout after a Bulldogs travel with 54.8 seconds left, leading 79-78.
On the next possession, Watson made a clutch floater to give the Flyers an 81-78 lead with 33 seconds left. After the Bulldogs called timeout, Stewart couldn’t get an open three from the corner to fall, and Crutcher got the rebound and was fouled.
Crutcher made both free throws to give the Flyers an 83-78 lead with 15.8 seconds left. Molinar made two field goals (jumper, dunk) to bookend another Crutcher trip to the free throw line, where he split the pair.
Leading 84-82, Crutcher once again split the free throws, giving the Bulldogs one last chance to win the game, down 85-82 with 2.8 seconds left.
Molinar got up the floor and had a decent look, but couldn’t get the shot to go, the Flyers coming away with a hard-fought 85-82 win in double overtime to improve to 3-1 on the season.
“It was a tough game,” Watson said. “Mississippi State is a super tough team. Very physical. We had to fight.”
The Flyers next face Ole Miss next Saturday at UD Arena at 2:30 p.m.
Freshman guard Luke Frazier did not make the trip to Atlanta for Saturday’s game due to having his appendix removed Thursday.