RICHMOND, Va. — Mustapha Amzil left the locker room Tuesday night at the Siegel Center carrying a boombox. It blared a song by King Von, a rapper from Chicago.
The scene showed not only that boomboxes are still a thing with players born in the 21st century but that Amzil and the Dayton Flyers have a reason to sing once again.
This up-and-down season delivered the the best moment of the season three days after one of the worst. Dayton rebounded from a 68-59 loss Saturday at St. Bonaventure with a 62-58 victory against first-place Virginia Commonwealth.
For the second straight season, Dayton avenged a one-point loss at home to VCU with a surprising road victory.
“It’s huge for our team,” Dayton forward DaRon Holmes II said. “We’ve been really wanting that one bad, especially after they got us at home. We were very hungry for that.”
“We’ve been waiting for this game for a while,” guard Koby Brea said. “Of course, we always pay attention to our next game but this is definitely one that we had circled on our calendar. Playing VCU is always fun. It’s a very competitive game.”
Dayton (16-9, 8-4) now trails VCU (18-7, 9-3) by one game with six to play. This was Dayton’s first victory against a top-100 team this season. VCU ranks 78th in the NCAA Evaluation Tool.
Here are three takeaways from Dayton’s 25th game:
1. The Flyers survived another late VCU comeback: Dayton never trailed after turning a 47-46 deficit into a 55-47 lead with a 9-0 run from the 9:12 mark to the 6:25 mark. However, the Flyers almost let a 60-51 lead get away in the final four minutes.
VCU rallied from a four-point deficit in the final 30 seconds to win 63-62 on Jan. 13. This game seemed headed in that same direction as Dayton committed four turnovers in the last 90 seconds.
The Flyers looked tired at the end. With Mike Sharavjamts fouling out midway through the second half and R.J. Blakney and Malachi Smith on the bench with injuries, the only substitute coach Anthony Grant was willing to use was Zimi Nwokeji. He didn’t enter the game until the final minute when Holmes fouled out. Until that point, Holmes, Toumani Camara, Mustapha Amzil, Koby Brea and Kobe Elvis had played almost the entire second half.
In the end, Dayton held on for the victory by getting just enough stops at the end and watching VCU miss opportunities at the free-throw line. Dayton sealed the victory when Elvis made 1 of 2 free throws with 18 seconds left and Camara made 1 of 2 with seven seconds to play.
“We had to survive really the last 52 seconds in the game,” Grant said. “I’m proud of the guys for making enough stops and making enough free throws.”
2. Dayton played its best defensive game in weeks: The Flyers held VCU to 46.7% percent shooting from 2-point range. That’s its fifth-worst number of the season. From 3-point range, VCU shot 21.1% (4 of 19), its fourth-worst effort.
Adrian Baldwin, VCU’s top player, scored 14 points on 6-of-21 shooting after scoring 37 on Friday against Saint Louis. David Shriver, who made six 3-pointers in the second half in the first game against Dayton, did not attempt a shot in this game.
“Defense was the whole key,” Grant said. “We did a really good job of following the scouting report and doing we needed to do.”
3. The Flyers finally won a close game against VCU: Prior to this game, VCU had beaten Dayton seven times in eight games when the final margin was five points or fewer. Six of those games were heartbreakers for Dayton, three decided by one point.
Dayton won the majority of its games from November through January by comfortable margins. Its last two victories against Loyola Chicago and VCU have been decided by four points.
This was also the first time Dayton has won a game when it trailed by 10 points or more. It faced a 17-6 deficit seven minutes into the game.
“Credit to Dayton,” VCU coach Mike Rhoades said. “They came in here and they played better than us. They played more to their game plan than we did. I love our effort down the down the stretch there to get it to a one-possession game. We just played flustered too much. Pressing is the word I use. We were pressing too much.”
STAR OF THE GAME
Toumani Camara followed up his 27-point performance against VCU in the first game with 26 points in this game. He made 9 of 12 shots from the field, including 2 of 3 3-pointers. He made 6 of 11 free throws.
Camara had nine turnovers in the first game against VCU but only two in this one. He also led all players with 15 rebounds.
STAT OF THE GAME
VCU shot 50% (10 of 20) from the free-throw line. It entered the game shooting 71.1% as a team and made 15 of 18 in its last game, a 73-65 victory at Saint Louis. This wasn’t the first time it has struggled at the line, however. In its last loss on Jan. 28 against St. Bonaventure at the Siegel Center, it shot 55.6% (10 of 18).
Dayton plays Saint Louis at 8 p.m. Friday at UD Arena. It’s the first of two games between the Flyers and Billikens, who meet again in the final game of the regular season on March 3 at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis.
Saint Louis (16-8, 8-3) moved within a half game of VCU by beating Rhode Island 76-71 at Chaifetz Arena on Tuesday.
Saint Louis at Dayton, 8 p.m., ESPN2, 1290, 95.7
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