At one point in the second half Thursday, as the fouls mounted for senior Darrell Davis and redshirt junior Josh Cunningham, the Dayton Flyers had four freshmen and a sophomore on the floor at the same time.
That wasn’t unusual this season. It was just another reminder of this team’s youth, which thrilled its fans at times and frustrated them at others — often on the same play. The season ended with a 77-72 loss to Virginia Commonwealth in the second round of the Atlantic 10 tournament at Capital One Arena, but if there’s a silver lining in a 14-17 season, Dayton’s first losing season in 12 years, it’s that the freshman class showed promise.
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Point guard Jalen Crutcher had seven points, seven rebounds and eight assists in the final game of his freshman season. Jordan Davis struggled from the field, making 3 of 10 shots, but had a key 3-pointer late in the game. He finished with seven points. Kostas Antetokounmpo also added seven points and had Dayton’s only two blocked shots. Sophomore Trey Landers led the Flyers with 19 points.
At the postgame press conference, a reporter asked Dayton coach Anthony Grant, “You mentioned the young guys at one point. You had four freshmen on the court at times in in the final minutes. Do you feel like as a group, they got better as the season went on?”
“No question, “Grant said. “I noticed the same thing. From where we started, to where those guys finished being able to be out there — and basically another freshman in Trey because he didn’t really play last year — at a crucial time and hold their own, I was proud of that. I think obviously at the end of the game, we’ll look at things that we could have done better, plays that we could have made, rotations or whatever it is, but this team grew. You know, they grew and you know, they understood. They learned what it would take and now we’ve got to take that next step as a team to be able to win games like these.”
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Milestone: Davis scored 14 points in his final game as a Flyer, capping off his career by becoming the 48th member of Dayton’s 1,000-point club. He scored 1,008 points in four seasons. He ranks 47th in UD history, one behind Junior Norris (1949-52) and five ahead of Sean Finn (2000-04).
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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Davis finished seventh in UD history in made 3-pointers (191 of 507). He said his goal is to play professional basketball next season.
“Hopefully, I get some tryouts in the spring and keep working on my game,” Davis said.
Looking ahead: Dayton hasn’t seen a player transfer since 2014. That’s a rare feat in college basketball these days.
That could change this spring. Davis said he wasn’t sure what would happen with the roster, but has talked to his teammates who saw limited minutes.
“I tell the guys to buy in,” Davis said. “All you’ve got to do is buy in. Coach Grant is a loyal guy. He’s going to play you. Don’t worry about if you’re not playing or not. A guy like John (Crosby), even though he’s not playing that much, he’s a good kid. He cheers us on — on and off the court — even when he’s not playing. He keeps guys ready for the next play. I don’t see nobody transferring, but if they do, it’s what they do with their lifestyle, their livelihood. I feel like if they stay, we have a good chance of winning next year.”