The Dayton Flyers thrilled their fans for 39-plus minutes but failed them in the final 10 seconds Tuesday at UD Arena. Walk-on Christian Wilson, taking directions from coach Anthony Grant, dribbled out the clock instead of attempting a shot at the buzzer.
A few disappointed fans in the crowd of 12,700 — or whatever was left of that crowd at the end — booed because they wanted Dayton to score 100 points. Instead, the Flyers settled for a 98-59 victory against Detroit Mercy.
While hitting the century mark would have served as a nice reward for a team that had lost three straight games and has ran through a gauntlet of top-50 teams in recent weeks, recording the most lopsided victory in almost six years gives it a bit of momentum entering the first true road game of the season and one of the most difficult games on the schedule. Dayton (5-3) plays at No. 8 Auburn (7-1) at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
”I thought our guys did a good job of being able to play two halves tonight,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “With the 20-point lead at the half, there were some things I thought we did well in the first half to be able to build the lead and some things we needed to do better. The challenge for our guys was to come out in the second half and play the way we needed to play. I told them after the game, it was good to see them do what they were supposed to do.”
Here are five takeaways from the first game of December:
1. Dunk fest: The Flyers set a school record for dunks in a game with 12. That's a big reason they shot 68.5 percent from the field. That's their best mark of the Grant era. Eight of the dunks were by redshirt freshman forward Obi Toppin, who also broke the school record for dunks by an individual.
Toppin had five dunks in the first half and then three more in the final four minutes of the second half. Dayton lobbed the ball to him at the rim over and over again, and it worked almost every time. He scored a career-high 22 points, made 10 of 13 shots from the field and grabbed 11 rebounds.
“The bottom was wide open,” Toppin said. “They were playing a 1-3-1 type of defense. In practice the day before, we knew what we were going to do.”
Toppin broke Sean Finn’s mark. He dunked six times against Prairie View A&M in 2003.
The previous team record of nine dunks was set by the Flyers against UNC Greensboro in 2008 and against St. Bonaventure in 2009.
Josh Cunningham, who scored 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, had two of Dayton’s dunks. Frankie Policelli dunked once for his first career basket. Jalen Crutcher, who scored 16 points and had six assists, had the other dunk.
2. Stopping Davis: Detroit freshman guard Antoine Davis, the son of first-year head coach Mike Davis, scored a season-low 18 points on 6-of-23 shooting. He entered the game with the second-best scoring average (29.6 points per game) in the country.
Grant credited Jordan Davis with making things difficult for Davis but Trey Landers, Ryan Mikesell and Dwayne Cohill also took turns guarding him.
“For a freshman to do what he’s done in terms of his ability to score the basketball with every defense knowing that they’ve got to do a good job limiting his opportunities, it’s pretty impressive,” Grant said. “He’s got a great ability to create shots off the bounce. It’s not often you see a guy — especially walking in the door — who can create his own shot off the dribble, that can run off screens and free himself with very little space and get good looks, that can score at all three levels — at the rim, mid-range game and then obviously with NBA range at the 3.”
3. Missing Matos: Dayton played this game one day after learning junior guard Jhery Matos will miss the rest of the season because of torn ligaments in his foot. This was the second game he missed after suffering the injury in the Oklahoma game. Matos, who will be eligible for a medical redshirt, will need surgery. Grant said a date hasn't been set for surgery.
“Right now, the first priority is finals are coming up,” Grant said. “We want to make sure we put him in a position where he can finish strong. (Trainer) Mike (Mulcahey) and our medical staff are working out the details of when he’ll actually have the surgery.”
4. More minutes: The absence of Matos means Policelli will play a larger role off the bench. Dayton planned to redshirt him. That won't happen now.
Policelli made his debut in the 65-58 loss to Mississippi State on Friday, playing just over two minutes in that game. In this game, he saw almost 16 minutes of action and recorded four assists and two points.
“I thought Frankie did a good job,” Grant said. “He played with a level of confidence. He played hard.”
5. Big picture: Unlike a large number of teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference, Dayton has yet to suffer a bad loss, and it continues to dominate weaker competition. It had not beat a team by this margin since a 96-51 victory over Fordham in 2013.
Eight games into the season, Dayton has played four teams in the top 60 0f the NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) rankings and four teams ranked in the bottom half of Division I. At No. 184, Detroit Mercy is one spot ahead of North Florida, which Dayton beat 78-70 in the season opener. Dayton ranks 83rd in the NET and 82nd in the Ken Pomeroy ratings.
Dayton at Auburn, 8:30 p.m., SEC Network, AM 1290, News 95.7 WHIO