Anyone who watches the Dayton Flyers walk up the tunnel at UD Arena after the game can measure by the magnitude of the victory by the decibel level of the players or the intensity of athletic director Neil Sullivan’s hugs.
The Flyers can be loud — or “lowd,” if you follow the younger fans who have made that misspelling part of UD basketball. Sullivan takes great joy in every victory and often greets the team as they head to the locker room. He was excited as anyone Wednesday when Dayton completed a 22-point comeback to win at George Washington and was all smiles Sunday when the Flyers beat Massachusetts 72-67.
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While UMass (7-9, 0-3) is not a good team by any measure this season, it is a dangerous team capable of pulling the upset and had beaten the Flyers three times in a row. It took a tie-breaking 3-pointer by Jalen Crutcher with 70 seconds to play, as the shot clock ticked down, for Dayton (11-5, 3-0) to pull out its sixth victory in a row.
“We go over that play every day in practice,” Crutcher said. “Anytime a guy goes under the screen, I shoot the ball. He went under it. I just shot it. I was open.”
Crutcher made 4 of 5 3-pointers and scored 19 points after a three-game stretch in which he made 2 of 16 shots from long range. He also hit the clutch shot one season after missing what would have been a game-winning shot at the buzzer at UMass in the second half in a game Dayton lost 86-82 in double overtime.
“I remember that shot every day,” Crutcher said. “I always think about that shot.”
Crutcher stole the headlines from his fellow sophomore guard, Jordan Davis, who made 7 of 11 3-pointers against GW and 6 of 8 in this game. After scoring 25 points in the 72-66 victory at GW, he scored 21 points.
Asked what was the key to staying hot, Davis said, “Just keep shooting and just keep believing.”
Davis scored 11 points in the first half to help lead the Flyers to a 38-33 halftime lead. Josh Cunningham had 14 of his 15 points in the first half.
In a matchup of the two highest-scoring offenses in the Atlantic 10, Dayton held UMass to 3-of-12 shooting from 3-point range in the first half. The Minutemen caught fire in the second half, making 7 of 13.
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Dayton made 11 of 19 3-pointers, but its offense went cold in the final 10 minutes. After a jumper by Crutcher at the 9:21 mark, Dayton didn’t make another field goal until Crutcher’s 3-pointer. The Flyers scored four points in that stretch — all on free throws by Trey Landers —as a 61-55 lead slowly slipped away.
Crutcher’s shot helped Dayton stay atop the A-10 in a tie with Davidson (12-4, 3-0) and Saint Louis (12-4, 3-0).
“I thought this was a really hard-fought game today,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “Both teams competed at a high level. We talked about it before the game that this would be that type of game. I say this all the time. Everyone in the preseason said when you look across the A-10, this is a year when anything can happen in the league, and obviously UMass comes in 0-2 in conference play, but they’ve been right there throughout the year. We knew this would be a battle.”