KISSIMMEE, Fla. — “A Whole New World,” from the Disney movie Aladdin played on the loudspeakers moments after the Dayton Flyers left the court at the HP Fieldhouse on Friday in the semifinals of the ESPN Events Invitational.
It certainly is a whole new world for Dayton, which recorded one of the most improbable and impressive victories in school history, beating No. Kansas 74-73 on a shot at the buzzer by Mustapha Amzil, just six days after losing to Austin Peay at UD Arena. That was a loss that followed stunning defeats at home to UMass Lowell and Lipscomb.
Dayton came to Florida with a 1-3 record. Fans hoped they would escape with just one victory at this tournament. In two days, they turned the season around. They are now a .500 team (3-3) with one of the best victories in the country on their resume.
This is Dayton’s first victory against a top-four team since it beat No. 3 DePaul 72-71 on Feb. 18, 1984, on The Shot by Ed Young.
Amzil’s shot — his only field goal of the game — is the new Shot. After Malachi Smith had his shot blocked at the rim, the ball bounced to Amzil who dribbled into the paint and put up a shot in traffic. The ball bounced high into the air before falling through the rim. Amzil ran down the court in celebration as his teams followed, creating a memorable scene as the Flyer Faithful went crazy in the stands. One fan came onto the court to get a big hug from Dayton forward DaRon Holmes II.
Dayton advanced to the championship game of the ESPN Events Invitational and will play Belmont or Iona at 1 p.m. or 4 p.m. Sunday.
Kansas saw its streak of six championships in in-season tournaments end. Dayton beat Kansas for the first time since the 1968 NIT final and avenged an 90-84 overtime loss to the Jayhawks in the Maui Invitational in 2019.
Dayton overcame a 10-point halftime deficit and led by as many as seven points in the second half. It trailed 73-70 with a minute to play. A layup by Smith cut the deficit to 73-72. Then Kansas was whistled for an offensive foul, allowing Dayton to set up for the winning shot after a timeout.
Holmes II led Dayton with 16 points. Toumani Camara and Elijah Weaver scored 14. Smith scored a number of big baskets and tallied 10 points. Koby Brea also had 10.
The Jayhawks scored 13 points off eight turnovers by the Dayton Flyers to take a 45-35 halftime lead.
Kansas committed only one turnover. That’s why it took 10 more shots than Dayton in the half.
The Jayhawks made 17 of 33 field goals (51.5 percent), while Dayton made 11 of 23 (47.8). Both teams struggled at the free-throw line. Dayton made 11 of 19 (57.9 percent), while Kansas made 7 of 13 (53.8 percent).
Ochai Agbaji, the nation’s leading scorer with 24.3 points per game, led all scorers with 13 points in the half. Christian Braun scored 10.
Toumani Camara, DaRon Holmes II and Koby Brea all scored eight points for Dayton.