Dayton fans rejoice in one of program’s greatest victories

Flyers beat No. 4 Kansas on buzzer beater and will play Belmont on Sunday

Ryan Goodhue, 8, spoke for every fan of the Dayton Flyers when he was interviewed outside the HP Fieldhouse on Friday.

“I honestly didn’t think we were going to make it,” he said. “At first, I thought Kansas won. I was speechless.”

No one in the Flyer Faithful could speak after Mustapha Amzil’s buzzer-beating basket beat No. 4 Kansas 74-73 in the semifinals of the ESPN Events Invitational, setting up a championship game at 4 p.m. Sunday against Belmont. They were too busy screaming and clapping and jumping up and down — whether they were at the game like Ryan and his parents, Paul and Shannon, of Springboro, or back in Dayton at Milano’s in Brown Street.

This was the best moment for the Dayton basketball program since March 7, 2020, when it capped a 29-2 season with a Senior Night victory against George Washington, and the biggest shot since Jalen Crutcher’s last-second 3-pointer against Saint Louis earlier that season.

Going back further, Amzil’s lucky bounce ranks next to Ed Young’s bank shot to beat No. 3 DePaul in 1984 as one of the best pure buzzer beaters in school history as there was no time left on the clock when the rainbow shot got past the outstretched hand of Kansas guard Christian Braun, hit the front of the rim, bounced high off the backboard and fell through the net.

Even Dick Vitale, in his second game back with ESPN after being diagnosed with cancer, couldn’t believe Amzil made the shot and Dayton beat Kansas. Almost two years ago, he called Dayton’s game against Davidson at UD Arena toward the end of UD’s 29-2 season and said on the air, “The Dayton Flyers, anybody who thinks they’re not real, you’re wacky, you’re wacky, you’re wacky.”

Vitale brought the proper level of excitement to this call, too, as Malachi Smith started the winning play above the 3-point line.

“They’re looking for Smith to drive the basketball,” Vitale said. “And they’re here goes!”

“Rejected!” said play-by-play man Jon Sciambi as David McCormack swatted Smith’s layup attempt toward the corner, where Amzil picked it up with about three seconds to play and took two dribbles toward the free-throw line.

“They got it back, though!” Vitale said.

“Amzil for the win!” Sciambi said.

“Oh!” Vitale said.

“They win it!” Sciambi said.

“Oh my God, oh my God!” Vitale said. “Oh my God! Oh my god!”

Dayton fans had the same reaction in the stands at the HP Fieldhouse.

“It was rowdy, plain and simple,” said Kevin Morrison, a 2018 Dayton grad.

“It was probably the best game I’ve ever been to in my life,” said Justin Hinders, a 2012 Dayton graduate. “We started the second half on a (20-7) run, and from there we never sat down ever again. It was tough to look at the clock and be up seven (68-61) and see there were (seven minutes) left and think, ‘We’re not going to hold on to this.’”

Elizabeth Barrett, a 2011 Dayton, graduate, was in the stands for the Maui Invitational championship game two years ago when Dayton lost 90-84 to another fourth-ranked Kansas team. She looked back on that game and wondered what could have been and had similar feelings Friday.

“Obviously, I didn’t expect this outcome,” she said, “but at the same time. I’ve been a fan for my entire life, so it’s something you dream about.”

Fans who weren’t at the game were just as excited to see the finish — or “Finnish “as the Dayton Daily News headline read Saturday in honor of Amzil, the first native of Finland to play for the Flyers.

“Mustapha Amzil you so tuff,” former Flyer Obi Toppin wrote on Twitter. “LETS GO UD!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The nerve-wracking game was hard to watch for some. Rita Walsh, 94, of Dayton, sent an email to her daughter, Joni Walsh Trempe, who shared it with the Dayton Daily News. It was titled: “Game watching: Rita style.” Rita grew up on the corner of Stewart and Brown streets near the UD campus and began going to games in the 1930s and 1940s. She remains a loyal fan.

“I start out by using 15 minutes finding the correct channel for ESPN,” Rita wrote. “Finally,. Ch. 26. First thing I see is Dayton’s record (2-3) and Kansas’ record (4-0). Game starting in a few minutes. Think I’ll go and check out ‘Law & Order’ first.”

Rita flips back to the Dayton game and sees it trails 11-1.

“Ouch,” she wrote. “Back to Law & Order, and I stay there for a long time, I just didn’t want to watch the slaughter. Commercial time on ‘Law & Order.’ Time to check on game. What! Dayton 45, Kansas 46! That’s too close for me. Back to L&O. Next commercial. Over to game. Dayton up by five. I better get back to L&O because I know that if I watch the game I’ll jinx them (besides I’m a real coward). L&O commercial, and here I go again to the game. Dayton down by three. Pray for a 3 pointer then into overtime? Can’t take it. Back to L&O but can’t concentrate on ‘who cheated who’ and I really don’t care. Back to the game. Down by one and a few seconds to go. I don’t know what happened next, but when I looked back a few seconds later, the look on the Dayton coach’s face told me all I needed to know. Dayton wins by 1.”

As the email continued, Rita wrote she didn’t know what would happen Sunday and it didn’t matter.

“They proved themselves to themselves and to the fans!” she wrote. “Dayton loves their Flyers, and I guess this game shows why!!”


Dayton vs. Belmont, 4 p.m., ESPN2, 1290, 95.7

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