Dayton Flyers: Reviewing best and worst of the 2018-19 regular season

Dayton’s Obi Toppin and Josh Cunningham react during the final minute of a victory against Duquesne on Saturday, March 9, 2019, at the A.J. Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh. David Jablonski/Staff

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Dayton’s Obi Toppin and Josh Cunningham react during the final minute of a victory against Duquesne on Saturday, March 9, 2019, at the A.J. Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh. David Jablonski/Staff

Obi Toppin emerges during A-10 play as Dayton’s MVP

Fans of the Dayton Flyers turned the A.J. Palumbo Center into UD Arena East on Saturday in the final minutes of a 78-67 victory against Duquesne, turning up the volume in the final minute as it became apparent there would no more runs by the Dukes and no last-second drama.

» A-10 TOURNAMENT: What are Dayton’s odds of winning?

Dayton won in convincing fashion on its Senior Night three days earlier, routing La Salle 70-39, and pulled away late to beat Duquesne on its Senior Night. The regular season ended as it began back in November in a 78-70 victory against North Florida back in Dayton — with Dayton fans serenading their team with applause and chants.

“For us to see them and for them to chant, ‘Let’s go Flyers,’ it was a thrill for us,” Dayton guard Trey Landers said.

“That’s the Flyer Faithful,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “We’ve got an awesome fan base. I’m glad we were able to close it out here with a win … and hopefully we can get a great crowd in Brooklyn.”

The show moves to the Barclays Center for the Atlantic 10 tournament, which starts Wednesday for the bottom four seeds and Friday for the top four seeds, including the third-seeded Flyers, who will play the final game of the quarterfinal round at 8:30 p.m. against No. 6 seed Saint Louis, No. 11 Richmond or No. 14 Fordham.

Before moving onto the postseason, however, it’s time to take one back look at the regular season. Here’s a summary:

MVP: Redshirt senior forward Josh Cunningham would have been the pick at the beginning of the season. Sophomore point guard Jalen Crutcher would have been the choice when A-10 play began in January.

» DUNK TRACKER: List of Toppin’s slams

Redshirt freshman forward Obi Toppin has taken over the team in lead in scoring (14.4) with perhaps the greatest debut season in school history, and he has taken over the role as UD's go-to player and its most valuable one. He won his seventh A-10 Rookie of the Week award on Monday and should be named the league's rookie of the year this week. He also could make the A-10 first team. ranks him as the league's third-best player.

Most improved/best comeback: Redshirt junior Ryan Mikesell has been better than anyone could have imagined, and like Toppin, he has played his best basketball in recent weeks. After undergoing two hip surgeries in 2017, he sat out last season. He averaged 5.7 points in his last season on the court and has averaged 10.4 this season, increasing his field-goal percentage from 45.5 to 52.1.

The advanced numbers make Mikesell’s performance look even better. His offensive rating, according to, ranks 160th in the nation. He’s 16th in the country in 2-point field-goal percentage (69.2).

Best victory: Dayton blew a 19-point lead but won 74-73 at Davidson on Feb. 19. The teams will meet again in the semifinals of the A-10 tournament on Saturday if the top seeds advance.

Worst loss: Dayton lost 67-63 at home to George Mason on Jan. 23. This is only a slightly worse defeat than a 72-70 overtime loss at home to Rhode Island on March 1. George Mason won its next game after beating Dayton and was 7-1 in the A-10 at that point. It then lost six of its last 10 games and was blown out at home by VCU on Senior Night, 71-36 on March 5.

» LOOKING BACK: The day Dayton got NCAA call in 1984

Best stat: Dayton's offense ranks 38th in the country in adjusted efficiency, a number that takes into account the quality of the competition. That's a 71-spot jump from last season, and it's only one spot lower than the 2014 Elite Eight team.

Thanks to Toppin, Cunningham and Mikesell, who all rank in the top 100 in 2-point field-goal percentage, Dayton is third in the country in that category (59.3). Dayton’s accuracy inside the arc made up for below-average 3-point shooting (33.4 percent, No. 189 in the country) and free-throw percentage (69.0, No. 238).

Worst stat: Dayton ranked 12th out of 14 A-10 teams in turnover margin (minus 0.9). The Flyers committed 19 turnovers in the loss to Rhode Island. If not for that defeat, they would have ended the season on a six-game winning streak and earned the No. 2 seed.

Lifetime achievement award: Cunningham enters the postseason with 952 points in a Dayton uniform. He ranks 54th in school history.

Top defender: Freshman Dwayne Cohill was often assigned to guard the other team's best player and received praise throughout the season from Grant. He has played a limited offensive role but has picked his spots well, averaging 3.5 points in 15.5 minutes per game.

Walk-on of the year: Junior guard Jack Westerfield wins the award for the second straight season. He appeared in eight games and scored eight points.

» ONE YEAR AGO: A review of 2017-19 regular season

Top 3-point shooter: While Toppin (8 for 16, 50 percent) or Crutcher (65 of 180, 36.1 percent) could be the choice, it's hard to top walk-on Camron Greer, who made his only 3-point attempt of the season.

Best game: Dayton won 86-82 in double overtime at St. Bonaventure on Jan. 19. That game had everything, including a late comeback by the Flyers and clutch shots by Jordan Davis and Ryan Mikesell in overtime.

Best finish: Cunningham made 1 of 2 free throws in the final seconds to put the Flyers in front at Davidson, and then Kellan Grady missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Worst finish: Dayton lost 69-68 at home to VCU on Feb. 16 on a shot by Marcus Evans with six seconds to play. Dayton had a chance to win the game with 0.7 seconds remaining but didn't get off a shot.


Dayton vs. TBA in A-10 quarterfinals, 8:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network, AM 1290 and News 95.7 WHIO

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