Championship in Florida ‘changes everything’ for Dayton

Flyers return home for two games this week after beating Miami, Kansas and Belmont

The aftermath of the Dayton Flyers’ stunning 74-73 victory over No. 4 Kansas on Friday featured moments that will live forever in the memories of everyone who witnessed the victory at HP Fieldhouse — and everyone watching at home or reliving Mustapha Amzil’s last-second shot over and over again on social media.

• There was the Dayton fan, John Douglass, who briefly came onto the court to seek a high five from DaRon Holmes II and got picked up and hugged instead.

• There were the Dayton coaches jumping into the air in unison at the moment the shot fell through the basket and head coach Anthony Grant throwing both arms in the air as he looked back at the hundreds of fans celebrating behind the bench. Assistant coach James Kane hugged him from behind for a second before leaving to join the celebration on the court.

• There was graduate assistant Tyler Carter falling to the ground during the celebration and getting helped to his feet by Brett Comer, the director of basketball operations.

• There was Kansas coach Bill Self interrupting Grant’s celebration by tapping him on the shoulder and then giving him a hug before the teams walked the handshake line.

• There was strength coach Casey Cathrall picking up freshman point guard Malachi Smith and carrying him from the 3-point line all the way to the circle at halfcourt.

• There was Amzil climbing over the seats on the Dayton bench to slap hands with fans and Holmes II climbing atop those same seats to reach the fans.

• Then there were many, many hugs from Grant and Athletic Director Neil Sullivan, who waited at the edge of the court for the players as they headed to the locker room.

The loss by Kansas (5-1) likely will be a small hiccup for one of the nation’s top programs. The Jayhawks fell from No. 4 to No. 8 in the Associated Press top-25 poll after placing third in the ESPN Events Invitational.

For Dayton, the victory might help them return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2017. That depends on what the Flyers can do with the rest of their non-conference schedule to erase the stench of three losses — to UMass Lowell, Lipscomb and Austin Peay — that in most seasons would doom their at-large hopes.

Dayton (4-3) still has work to do to get back in the at-large conversation, and that starts with two home games this week at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Alabama State and at 2 p.m. Saturday against Northern Illinois. The three victories in Florida changed the storyline for a young, struggling team.

“It changes everything for us,” Dayton guard Koby Brea said, “because it shows us what winning is and how fun it is. At this point, we don’t want to go back. We just want to keep moving forward. I feel like that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”

Dayton followed its 76-60 first-round victory against the Miami Hurricanes and its upset of Kansas with a 63-61 victory against Belmont in the championship game Sunday. The Flyers celebrated their first two victories by dousing Grant with water in the locker room.

Brea said that didn’t happen Sunday. Instead, Grant gave an emotional speech in which he told the players how proud he was and talked about continuing to move forward. Charlie Duross, Dayton’s official videographer, captured the scene with his camera and shared part of the speech through the official Dayton basketball Twitter account.

“Not one day did I walk in after any one of your all’s losses and feel like you guys wouldn’t do anything but put the work in,” Grant told the players. “Not one day. Through early-morning film sessions, through early-morning practices, through coming back in the afternoon, through workouts, I’m grateful that I get to coach a group like this. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve seen every side to this that this thing can go. To lose three games like that and not one guy in this room ever wavered. I’m grateful for that.”


Alabama State at Dayton, 7 p.m., ESPN+, 1290, 95.7

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