Flyers win 10th straight despite blowing most of 19-point lead
The Dayton Flyers left the court at PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday with more relief than happiness etched on their faces. That’s what happens when you see a 19-point lead trimmed to four and then an 11-point lead cut to two and still emerge victorious.
Plenty of Dayton teams through the years would have lost a game like this. These Flyers found a way to win, as they have been doing for three months. A 73-69 victory against Duquesne won't rank among their top performances, but no one will complain much — not when the Flyers are 19-2, ranked seventh in the nation, winners of 10 straight and sitting all alone atop the Atlantic 10 Conference with an 8-0 mark.
Two years ago after the last game of January, Dayton was 10-11 and 4-5 in the A-10. Now they are garnering headlines like this one from CBSSports.com on Wednesday: "Overlooked national title contender Dayton has surprisingly built an all-time elite offense."
“It’s crazy how things have changed,” Dayton guard Jalen Crutcher said.
Dayton won this game in part by making 7 of 7 free throws. Obi Toppin, who led the Flyers with 22 points, hit two free throws with 16 seconds left to clinch the victory.
“We do competition shots like that every day in practice,” Toppin said, “so it was just another shot at the free-throw line for me. My teammates had confidence in me, and my coaches had confidence in me and I had confidence in myself. When I stepped up to the line, it was just like any other free throw I shot.”
Toppin ended a rare scoring drought for Dayton. It led 71-60 after a 3-point play by Trey Landers at the 3:56 mark and then committed two turnovers and missed two 3-pointers on its next four possessions, allowing Duquesne to go on a 9-0 run.
That was the second big comeback by the Dukes. Dayton led 38-30 at halftime, pushed the lead to 45-30 with a 7-0 run to start the second half and claimed its biggest lead of the game, 55-36, on a dunk by Toppin at the 13:12 mark. Duquesne responded by scoring 13 points, the first six on back-to-back 3-pointers by Tavian Dunn-Martin, in a two-minute stretch to ignite a 21-6 run.
Dayton committed three of its 17 turnovers during Duquesne’s first big run. That stat, plus Duquesne’s 15 offensive rebounds, which led to 15 second-chance points, troubled Dayton coach Anthony Grant the most. His defense also allowed Duquesne to shoot 55.2 percent in the second half.
“In my opinion, we’re better than what we played today,” Grant said. “Throughout the roster, we’ve got to be better.”
This was only the second game in the last 10 not decided by the final minute. Dayton won the other one in overtime, 78-76 at Saint Louis. A year ago, the Flyers lost four games in A-10 play by five points or fewer. This team has shown it can win big or win close. It would just prefer the former.
“Throughout this season, you have to learn and go through adversity,” Grant said. “Throughout a career, you go through adversity. We have some veterans who have had to deal with adversity. Our first year, we won one road game in the league. Last year, we lost a lot of one or two or three-possession games. All the way through from the beginning of the season to the end, you go through adversity, but sometimes one of the hardest things to handle is prosperity. Maybe the word is complacency. I don’t know what it is. We have to realize we have to bring our best every single day, and when we do that, we’re really good, and when we don’t do that, anything can happen. That’s college basketball.”