Dayton Flyers beat Mississippi State in double overtime

Dayton's Jordy Tshimanga competes for a loose ball against Mississippi State on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Photo by Scott Cunningham

Credit: ©Scott Cunningham

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Dayton's Jordy Tshimanga competes for a loose ball against Mississippi State on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Photo by Scott Cunningham

Credit: ©Scott Cunningham

R.J. Blakney’s game-tying 3-pointer in first overtime helps Dayton avoid defeat in first road game

The Dayton Flyers beat Mississippi State for the first time, won their first road game of the 2020-21 season, won their first double-overtime game in almost two years, survived despite giving up their second last-second heartbreaking shot of the season and won in part because of a freshman’s first career 3-pointer.

Dayton prevailed 85-82 on Saturday in the Holiday Hoopsgiving event at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. An empty arena — no fans were allowed because of the COVID-19 pandemic — saw Dayton pull ahead with an 8-0 run in the second overtime.

Dayton tied the game at 78-78 on a 3-pointer by Ibi Watson with 2:49 to play in the second overtime. Jordy Tshimanga made 1 of 2 free throws with 1:25 left to break the tie. Then Watson, who scored 21 points, hit a tough jump shot in traffic with 35 seconds remaining.

Jalen Crutcher, who led Dayton with 23 points and played all 50 minutes, made 4 of 6 free throws in the final 15 seconds. Mississippi State’s Iverson Molinar missed a desperation 3-pointer at the final buzzer.

“I thought our guys grew up to an extent today,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant told Larry Hansgen on WHIO’s postgame radio show. “There were a lot of things that happened in the game, a lot of good things, some things that were bad, some things that were kind of heartbreaking as they occurred. But our guys stayed together. I saw a group that showed resiliency. I’m so proud of them to come out with the win.”

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Dayton improved to 3-1 with one non-conference game remaining Dec. 19 against Mississippi, though it could choose to add a game or games between then and the start of Atlantic 10 Conference play. Mississippi State fell to 3-3 with its first loss to Dayton in four games. Three of those games have taken place in the last four seasons.

“It felt really good,” Crutcher said. “Beating an SEC school is really big for our conference and our team. Since my freshman year, we’ve played Mississippi State every year except last year, and we never did get a win. I was really trying to get this win today.”

“It was a tough game,” Watson said. “Mississippi State is a super tough team. Very physical. We had to fight.”

A game that featured 19 lead changes and 11 ties saw Dayton take a 62-57 lead into the final two minutes of the second half only to give up a 5-0 run.

After two tie-breaking free throws by Watson with 5 seconds left in the second half, Molinar dribbled the length of the court, cut between Crutcher and Jordy Tshimanga at the basket and got a layup to fall at the buzzer.

The game went to overtime, where Dayton suffered its only two losses last season. Dayton trailed throughout the overtime period but tied the game on freshman R.J. Blakney’s first career 3-pointer, off an assist by Watson, and his first basket of the game with 15 seconds left. Molinar missed a jump shot at the buzzer.

“We were in a situation where we were going for the best shot available,” Grant said. “We needed a 2 or a 3. (Watson) drove it and saw the help coming off and trusted his teammates. For R.J., as a freshman, to step up in that situation and make that shot, that was huge.”

This was Dayton’s first double-overtime game since it beat St. Bonaventure 89-86 on Jan. 19, 2019.

Early in the game, it didn’t appear as if the Flyers would get that far. They trailed 33-25 at halftime. That was the largest deficit either team faced in the game.

Quinten Post, a 7-foot center who had made two 3-pointers in his career entering the game, made two in the final two minutes of the half.

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Crutcher kept Dayton in the game with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Watson missed his first four field goals and finished the half with three points on 1-of-5 shooting.

Dayton committed eight turnovers in the half and gave up 10 offensive rebounds.

With the game tied at 16-16, Dayton gave up a 9-2 run and trailed for the last 10 minutes of the half.

Dayton then opened the second half with a 9-0 run, taking the lead on a steal and fast-break layup by Rodney Chatman.

NOTES: Freshman guard Luke Frazier did not travel to Atlanta with the team. He had his appendix removed Thursday. Trainer Mike Mulcahey said, “He is in the recovery process and looks forward to returning to the court when he is ready.” ... Grant was presented with the Naismith Coach of the Year trophy by the Atlanta Tipoff Club on Friday. Grant won the award in April, but the club wanted to give him the trophy in person.

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