The Dayton Flyers have no official captains. There was never a moment when Anthony Grant told the players there would be no captains this season, Obi Toppin said. They just figured it out and decided they don’t need the titles anyway.
“Everybody’s a captain on our team,” Toppin said. “Especially Trey (Landers) and Ryan (Mikesell), them being the seniors, we listen to them the most. But everybody has a voice on the team, even down to the walk-ons. When they say something, we listen, just because they see things we can’t see on the court.”
The captain question came up Friday after No. 13 Dayton’s 78-76 overtime victory — clinched on a 3-pointer by Jalen Crutcher with 0.1 seconds remaining — against Saint Louis at Chaifetz Arena because coach Anthony Grant praised the leadership of the players in the post-game press conference.
“During the break in the action before the overtime, there was a player-led timeout,” Grant said. “Obi, Trey, Jalen, all the guys stepped up and you could just tell the resolve they had to do whatever it took to win the game today. Obviously, we’re excited to get the win, but more proud of the character and resolve we had in that locker room.”
First buzzer beater: In its only two losses this season, Dayton (16-2, 5-0) forced overtime on last-second 3-pointers. Crutcher made one against Kansas in the Maui Invitational championship. Toppin did the same against Colorado in Chicago on Dec. 21.
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This time, Dayton was on the wrong end of a last-second shot at the end of regulation. AfterLanders made 1 of 2 free throws with five seconds remaining to give Dayton a 69-67 lead, Jordan Goodwin drove to the basket and scored over Rodney Chatman to tie the game at the buzzer.
“Great play by Goodwin,” Grant said. “That was on me. I probably should used the timeout there up two. I kick myself for that. He made a heck of a play to send it to overtime.”
Overtime streak: Dayton ended a three-game losing streak in overtime and won its first overtime game in the Grant era. It lost 72-70 at home to Rhode Island last season in overtime. The losses to Kansas and Colorado this season followed. It’s 3-5 in games that have gone to one or two overtimes in the last three seasons.
“I was tired of losing in overtime,” Toppin said. “Our only two losses were to Colorado and Kansas in overtime, and God wasn’t going to let us lose another one. I was speaking to (the rest of the team) and making sure they knew we’ve go to win this one. There were no ifs, ands or buts. We’ve got to win.”
Free-throw shooting: Dayton made 13 of 19 free throws (68.4 percent), about four points below its season average of 72.2. Dayton was shooting 60 percent until Crutcher made 4 of 4 in the final minute of overtime.
Rodney Chatman missed the front end of a 1-and-1 twice in the final 32 seconds of regulation, and Landers made 1 of 2 with five seconds remaining, giving the Billikens a chance to take a 2-pointer in the final seconds.
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While Dayton may have had a sub-par night at the line, Saint Louis lived up to its reputation as the nation’s worst free-throw shooting team. It made 20 of 37 (54.1 percent). It’s shooting 56 percent at the line this season. It’s one of six teams out of 353 in Division I shooting below 60 percent.
Hasahn French made 4 of 10 and banked in one of his shots. Goodwin made 4 of 9.
“We knew going into the game they struggled at the free-throw line,” Mikesell said. “Coach said, especially at the end of the game, if French gets the ball down there, foul him.”
Big comeback: Dayton trailed 55-42 with 7:40 to play. It got back into the game and moved into the lead by making six 3-pointers in the next four minutes. Ibi Watson made two. Toppin made two. Crutcher and Landers each made one during that stretch.
Dayton made 1 of 10 3-pointers in the first half and 8 of 15 in the second half and overtime. Saint Louis shot only six 3-pointers, making two.
“If you told me, we would only make two 3s and miss 18 free throws and they’d make nine 3s, I would have told you we’d get blown out,” Saint Louis coach Travis Ford said. “We did something right. We played hard. We did a lot of good things. It comes down to the little things.”
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