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Dayton Flyers: Top 10 plays of 2017-18 season

Cunningham’s buzzer-beater in season opener is No. 1

The Dayton Flyers men’s basketball Twitter account posted videos of the top-10 plays of the 2017-18 season Wednesday. It was a reminder that even a 14-17 season that many fans would like to forget had a number of memorable moments, starting with the last basket of the first game of the year and ending with a milestone basket in the final game of the season.

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Jalen Crutcher led the team with assists or baskets in six of the plays. Josh Cunningham was involved in three of the plays. Trey Landers and Kostas Antetokounmpo each made two appearances. Darrell Davis, Joey Gruden and Xeyrius Williams each played a part in one of the plays. Four of the plays are from the three games against Virginia Commonwealth.

Here’s a look back at the top 10:

1. Buzzer-beater: Xeyrius Williams threw a lob pass to Josh Cunningham for the game-winning basket against Ball State in the season opener Nov. 10 at UD Arena. Cunningham scored with 0.1 seconds remaining to give Dayton a 78-77 victory.

“I didn’t panic,” Cunningham said. “I’ve seen big moments like this happen before. You can’t panic. When you panic, that’s when things start to go the wrong way. You’ve got to stay calm and execute what the play is.”

The basket was a sign of things to come from Cunningham. He was almost unstoppable in the paint, shooting 70.1 percent from the field on 2-point field-goal attempts and ranking eighth in the country in that category. He shot 64.6 percent from the field overall, ranking fifth in the nation.

» RELATED: Dayton names Cunningham team MVP

The 6-7 redshirt junior forward led Dayton with 15.3 points per game. It was the seventh straight year a transfer player led the Flyers in scoring.

Dayton’s Josh Cunningham catches a lob pass and scores at the buzzer to give the Flyers a victory against Ball State on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, at UD Arena. (David Jablonski - Staff Writer)

2. Crutcher to Landers: Anyone who saw this alley-oop pass from Crutcher to Landers on Jan. 21 against Saint Louis immediately knew it would rank among the top plays of the season. The basket played a big part in Dayton’s comeback from a 13-point deficit in a 53-50 victory at UD Arena.

“That was a momentum swinger for us,” Landers said. “It got the fans back on our side. We were in a slump. We were down 13. That got us going. We got some stops, got out in transition and got a couple buckets.”

Crutcher had the best freshman season by a Flyer since Dyshawn Pierre in 2012-13, averaging 9.2 points and 4.4 rebounds. He improved as the season progressed. In 18 A-10 games, he averaged 11.8 points and 5.2 rebounds and led the Flyers in minutes per game (35.4).

Landers was named the team’s most improved player after the season. He averaged 11.3 points and 5.6 rebounds as a sophomore after barely seeing the court as a freshman. He shot 58.3 percent from the field.

Dayton’s Jalen Crutcher throws an alley-oop pass to Trey Landers against Saint Louis on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, at UD Arena. (David Jablonski - Staff Writer)
Dayton’s Trey Landers dunks an alley-oop pass from Jalen Crutcher against Saint Louis on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, at UD Arena. (David Jablonski - Staff Writer)

3. Crutcher to Antetokounmpo: The redshirt freshman Antetokounmpo had the most memorable dunk in a number of games. This alley-oop pass from Crutcher to Antetokounmpo came on Dec. 23 against Wagner. Antetokounmpo snatched the pass from the rafters before slamming it down. It was his only basket of the game in 11 minutes.

Antetokounmpo left school in March, one of five Flyers to do so, and declared for the NBA Draft. He averaged 5.2 points and 2.9 rebounds in his only season on the court for the Flyers.

Dayton's Kostas Antetokounmpo dunks against Wagner on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017, at UD Arena. (David Jablonski - Staff Writer)

4. Block and dunk: A block by Antetokounmpo, who led the team with 31 on the season, led to an alley-oop pass from Crutcher to Cunningham on Dec. 6 against Tennessee Tech at UD Arena.

Dayton’s Kostas Antetokounmpo blocks a shot against Tennessee Tech’s Kajon Mack on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff (Staff Writer)

5. Long shot: Crutcher hit a shot from beyond halfcourt at the halftime buzzer against VCU in Richmond on Feb. 10. It gave the Flyers a 40-38 halftime lead. They lost 88-84 in overtime.

6. Last-second shot: This play also comes from the game at VCU. Crutcher lobbed a pass to Cunningham under the basket, and he scored with 0.1 seconds left to send the game to overtime. The basket completed a 16-1 run in the last 3:13.

“That was the plan,” Crutcher said. “If Josh’s man didn’t show up on me, drive to the goal and get a layup, and if he does, throw the alley-oop.”

Highlights of Dayton's comeback against VCU (David Jablonski - Staff Writer)

7. Big shot: Crutcher’s 3-pointer with 56 seconds left gave Dayton a 63-61 lead against Davidson on Jan. 23 at UD Arena. The Flyers won 65-64.

Crutcher didn’t bounce down the court after his shot flexing his muscles or jumping up and down. He didn’t even crack a smile. That’s his style.

“I wanted to show emotion, but I know the game wasn’t over,” Crutcher said. “I wanted to stay locked in.”

8. Shot block: Trey Landers rejected a shot by one of the other top young players in the A-10, Rhode Island guard Fatts Russell, on Feb. 23 in Kingston, R.I. The Flyers led 17-12 at the time and trailed 36-34 at halftime but were dominated in the final minutes as the Rams clinched the outright conference title with an 81-56 victory.

9. First basket: As far as feel-good moments go, this might rank No. 1. Senior walk-on guard Joey Gruden’s first career basket was a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left against VCU on Jan. 12 at UD Arena. It was the last basket in a 106-79 victory. It was Dayton’s best performance of the season.

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It would end up being Gruden’s only career basket. He finished his career with five points. He scored two points at the foul line as a junior.

“I head the whole gym yelling,” Gruden said. “I heard Darrell (Davis) in my ear yellin’ Shoot it! Shoot it! Shoot it!’ And I did. It felt good and I knew it was in right away.”

10. Career milestone: Darrell Davis reached the 1,000-point milestone in the final game of the season, a 77-72 loss to VCU in the A-10 tournament on March 8 in Washington, D.C. He scored his 1,000th and 1,001st points on a layup early in the second half. He needed six points entering the game to reach the milestone and scored 14.

» RELATED: Davis thanks fans after his final game

Davis, the only senior on scholarship the team loses, finished his career with 1,008 points. He’s the 48th player in Dayton history to score 1,000 points and ranks 47th. Sean Finn, who scored 1,003 points, was the last UD player to reach the milestone in his final game.

Davis scored 531 points in his first three seasons and 474 as a senior.

“I think I had a pretty good career here,” Davis said. “We won two conference championships. I played on a good team with Scoochie (Smith), Kyle (Davis), Kendall (Pollard) and (Charles) Cooke. I just wanted to finish strong.”

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