The basketball left the hands of Jordan Davis, hit the backboard, rolled around the rim and then came to a rest on the back of the rim. Everyone waited for it to fall into the basket or off to the side.
Instead, the ball sat there for four seconds before the officials waved the play dead and awarded the ball to Virginia Commonwealth. It might still be sitting there had Dayton’s Obi Toppin not rushed over at that point to dunk the ball, but the play had ended, and with it, Dayton’s chances of winning at the Siegel Center died.
“It was crazy,” Dayton point guard Jalen Crutcher said. “I’ve never seen that before.”
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That shot with 13 seconds to play didn’t decide the game — the go-ahead 3-pointer by Marcus Evans 20 seconds earlier accomplished that — but it symbolized Dayton’s frustration in a 76-71 loss.
The Flyers (11-6, 3-1) had a chance to stamp themselves as the team to beat in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Instead, the Rams (12-5, 3-1) outscored Dayton 11-2 in the final four minutes to win the game, ending Dayton’s six-game winning streak.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “We had opportunities, and Evans stepped up and made a big shot there.”
Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. Winning shot: Evans, a transfer from Rice playing Dayton for the first time, missed his first 3-pointers but picked a good time to make his first. The game was tied at 67 when he hit a 3-pointer in front of Dayton’s Trey Landers with 33 seconds to play.
“It was honestly just a reversal,” said Evans, a guard who led the Rams with 17 points. “There was no specific play call. But when the clock gets under 10, we try to get a high ball screen. I got the ball. It got to eight. I thought (Marcus Santos-Silva) was going to be late. (Landers) backed off. It went in.”
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VCU made 9 of 19 3-pointers (47.4 percent) after making 4 of 24 Saturday in a 64-57 loss at Davidson. It was their second-best 3-point shooting effort of the season and the third time they’ve topped 40 percent.
2. Busted play: Of all the empty possessions for Dayton in the final four minutes, none stood out more than the one that preceded the shot by Evans. The Flyers had the ball in a tie game with 1:24 to go and called a 30-second timeout at the 1:07 mark.
Here’s what happened next. None of it happened fast enough considering how much time was on the shot clock.
Ryan Mikesell in-bounded the ball in front of the Dayton bench to Josh Cunningham, who held the ball for almost two seconds before passing it to Crutcher.
Crutcher dribbled left before throwing the ball back to the right to Mikesell, again in front of the bench. Crutcher’s pass was tipped before Mikesell caught it. Mikesell had to rush a shot as the shot clock expired and missed with 57 seconds to go. The team jogged through the play, Crutcher said, instead of sprinting through it, an assessment Grant echoed.
“We had guys with heavy minutes,” Grant said. “and we didn’t have the urgency we needed coming out of the time-out with 10 seconds to go to get to the action the way we needed to get to the action. That didn’t go as planned.”
3. Strong performance: After scoring 46 points in two games last week and winning the A-10 Player of the Week Award, Jordan Davis led the Flyers in scoring for the third straight game. He made 6 of 13 shots, including 2 of 4 3-pointers, and scored 17 points.
4. First-half comeback: The Flyers outscored Virginia Commonwealth 9-0 in the last 93 seconds to get back in the game. VCU took a 37-36 lead into halftime.
The Rams led by as many as 11 points in the first half. They had a 37-27 lead after a score by Marcus Santos-Silva at the 2:36 mark but didn’t score again in the half.
Dayton rallied despite making 2 of 8 3-pointers. Its accuracy didn’t improve in the second half. It made 2 of 8 again. Inside the arc, it was a different story. Dayton made 22 of 39 2-point field goals (56.4 percent).
Crutcher scored 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Josh Cunningham added 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Ryan Mikesell made 5 of 9 shots, scoring 11 points.
“I thought our big guys did a really good job on their bigs in making them take tough shots or making them miss,” VCU coach Mike Rhoads said. “I thought we gave up too many quick passes, slips or some rolls that we didn’t good good enough coverage. … But they have some talented players, and they get downhill, and coach Grant does a great job of spreading the floor.”
5. Big picture: The Flyers have now lost three straight games to VCU, which has fast become their biggest rival, since a 106-79 victory at UD Arena last January. All of the games have been decided in the last two minutes or in overtime.
Dayton fell into a tie for third place in the A-10 with VCU, Duquesne and Davidson (all 3-1). Saint Louis leads the pack at 4-0. George Mason is 4-1.
This was Dayton’s sixth game against a team ranked in the top 100 of the Pomeroy ratings. It is 1-5 in those games with the only victory coming against Butler.
“At the end, they just made more plays than us,” Mikesell said. “Another learning experience.”