Dayton’s Ryan Mikesell on his last made shot at UD Arena: ‘It’s special’

Dayton closes regular season with 20 straight victories

It’s a basketball tradition. Every player knows you have to make your last shot before you leave the court. The rule applies mostly to practice or shootarounds.

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“I’m 100 percent that guy,” Dayton Flyers fifth-year senior Ryan Mikesell said.

Mikesell followed the old rule in the final game at UD Arena on Saturday. Jordy Tshimanga tipped a loose ball to Mikesell in the corner, and with 2 minutes, 25 seconds left in the 31st game of the season and Mikesell’s 118th game in a Dayton uniform, he drained the 3-pointer, putting at least the 10th exclamation point on a great night for the Dayton Flyers.

Dayton (29-2, 18-0) routed George Washington 76-51 to break the school record for victories in a season while tying the school record for consecutive victories (20). It put the finishing touches on the greatest regular season in school history while also improving its chances to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament — thanks to San Diego State’s last-second loss to Utah State on Saturday.

The stats of Mikesell and everyone else paled in comparison to those feats. For the record, Mikesell finished with four points on 1-of-2 shooting in his last home game. He made one free throw to get on the board with 4:19 to play but then missed the second. He knew he had to get another shot.

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Considering his 3-point numbers this season (23 of 88, 26.1 percent), Mikesell faced long odds when he let the shot fly.

“I’ve been in such a shooting slump this whole season,” he said, “and my teammates have been telling me to keep shooting. I know I’m a good shooter. For that to be my last make at UD Arena, it’s special. I know I didn’t have the best game, but it’s not even about that. We made history. We went 18-0.”

Mikesell looked as relieved as he was excited running back down the court after the shot. Watching from the corner by the Dayton band, his parents Reed and Lisa rejoiced.

“I said to myself, ‘C’mon, God, please let his one go in,’” Reed said. “‘Let him finish up here on the home court.’ He wanted it so bad. You could just see it. The skies opened up for him. We’re excited for him.”

Mikesell and fellow senior Trey Landers, who had three points and 10 rebounds, enjoyed one of great Senior Nights in Dayton history. They each addressed the crowd after the game, as did coach Anthony Grant.

The Mikesell shot had no affect on the outcome — the game had already been decided by a 16-0 Dayton run minutes earlier — but it will go down as one of the most memorable plays in the game.

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“That was really really great,” Grant said. “Ryan’s had some struggles offensively. He wants to do so well. He puts so much pressure on himself. My thing to him is, ‘Man, have fun. Enjoy this. Take this in.’ It means so much to him to put that Dayton uniform on.”

Of course, the stars of the game were the two players who have carried Dayton all season, the two locks to make the Atlantic 10 Conference first team Tuesday: Obi Toppin and Jalen Crutcher.

Toppin scored 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting. Crutcher scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half, and his 10-point burst in a three-minute span turned a 39-37 Dayton lead into 49-37 advantage entering the final 10 minutes.

Toppin also put on a show around the same time. He dunked three times in fewer than 90 seconds. The second dunk included a 360-degree spin in the air. He returned to the dunk that helped make him famous with the third dunk in that sequence, taking the ball between the legs before slamming it.

Grant marveled at how well Dayton played during the decisive run.

“Between Jalen’s explosiveness and what we were doing on the defensive end,” Grant said, “the way (Rodney) Chatman was just single-handedly wrecking everything they were trying to do offensively and then Obi’s explosiveness, that stretch was unbelievable.”

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