ESPN Events Invitational: ‘Job is not finished’ for Dayton

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Highlights: Dayton Flyers go on 16-1 run vs. Kansas on Nov. 26, 2021

Flyers hope to win a tournament for the first time since 2011

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — The Dayton Flyers lasted hoisted a trophy after winning a tournament 10 years ago at the Old Spice Classic. They have since played in eight November tournaments, nine Atlantic 10 Conference tournaments and four NCAA tournaments without experiencing such a moment.

Dayton (3-3) will get a chance to end the drought when it plays Belmont (4-2) at 4 p.m. Sunday in the championship game of the ESPN Events Invitational at HP Fieldhouse, the spot where it won that 2011 title.

“That would be insane,” guard Elijah Weaver said, “and that’s the goal. The job is not finished.”

“It would be amazing,” forward DaRon Holmes II said. “We’re going to get really focus and lock in, and we’ll be ready Sunday.”

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Dayton beat No. 4 Kansas 74-73 on a buzzer-beater by Mustapha Amzil on Friday. Later in the event, Belmont beat Iona 72-65. Iona owned the biggest upset of the tournament — it beat No. 10 Alabama 72-68 in the first round Thursday — until Dayton’s victory against Kansas.

Belmont is one of the most consistent winners in the country and has played in the NCAA tournament nine times since 2006. It beat Iona behind a career-high 25 points from Ben Sheppard. Center Nick Muszynski added 19 points.

“We’re excited,” said Muszynski, who’s from Pickerington, Ohio. “This was just a total team win. We have the opportunity to play for a championship. That’s what you want to do. That’s why we’re here.”

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Dayton fans react to buzzer-beater against Kansas

Rest day: All the teams got Saturday off after playing two games in two days and will return to action Sunday. North Texas will play Drake in the seventh-place game at 10:30 a.m. Kansas will play Iona in the third-place game at 1 p.m. After the championship game between Dayton and Belmont, Miami will play Alabama in the fifth-place game at 6:30 p.m.

The last time Dayton played in a championship game in a November tournament, it played three games in three days in Maui. This time, it gets a break before the final game.

“The goal is to see if we can get another win,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said, “and just keep getting better. The next game will be completely different than this one, and we’ll have to make sure we prepare the right way and stay humble and understand (six days) ago we lost three home games in a row. Same team. Same group.”

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Pregame meeting: Grant met with ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale before the game. Vitale called the UCLA-Gonzaga game last weekend in Las Vegas, Nev. It was an emotional return after being diagnosed with cancer. This was his second game back on the microphone, and he’ll call the championship game Sunday.

Of talking to Vitale, Grant said, “It was awesome. We spent time time together. He looks great. He sounds like he’s doing well. It sounds like he’s in a good position to continue doing what he loves to do. He’s one of the greatest ambassadors of. college basketball that we’ve ever had. It’s an honor when a guy like that does the game, and especially with the way it ended, it’s exciting. Somebody showed me after the game his call at the end. It just classic Dickie V.”

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Highlights: Dayton Flyers go on 16-1 run vs. Kansas on Nov. 26, 2021

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