Sheila Crutcher could not watch. Who could blame her? Plenty of Dayton Flyers fans with less on the line than the mom of the starting guard had a hard time watching the first 40 minutes Friday against Saint Louis at Chaifetz Arena — much less five more pressure-packed minutes in overtime.
That’s why Sheila left the stands and the big crowd of family members who made the 3½-hour drive from Memphis to sit in the hallway in the concourse.
“I did that in Maui, Chicago,” Sheila said. “I just listened. At first, I saw a lot of TVs, and I was trying to get away from the TVs.”
Sheila heard the crowd groan and saw her son had made the go-ahead free throws, which Jalen did twice in the final minutes. Then she heard one last big noise — all the air going out of the first sell-out crowd (10,007) to see the Billikens in five years — and tried to figure out what had happened.
“Did we win?” she asked people nearby.
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Nobody said anything. Finally, Sheila saw the score on the TV. With Dayton trailing 76-75 with six seconds remaining, her son took the in-bounds pass, dribbled past half-court, got a pick from Obi Toppin and made the game-winning 3-pointer in front of Saint Louis guard Demarius Jacobs with 0.1 seconds to play, giving No. 13 Dayton (16-2, 5-0) a 78-76 victory and the most magical moment, so far, in what’s shaping up to one of the best seasons in Dayton history.
Of course, Sheila had seen all this before from Jalen.
“Buzzer beaters,” she said. “Always. Since he was 8 years old.”
Crutcher scored Dayton’s last seven points in overtime to finish with a team-high 21 points. He had hit plenty of big shots in his Dayton career, including a last-second 3-pointer against Kansas to send the Maui Invitational championship to overtime. He also made what would have been the game-winning layup against Colorado on Dec. 21 had the Buffaloes not hit the game-winning 3-pointer in overtime seconds later. Nothing Crutcher has done tops this one.
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Dayton coach Anthony Grant talked to Crutcher before Saint Louis guard Yuri Collins stepped to the line with the Billikens trailing 75-74 with six seconds remaining.
“Coach just said get the ball, get a high screen from Obi and make a play basically,” Crutcher said. “That’s what I did.”
Toppin, who scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half to help the Flyers rally from a 13-point deficit, raised one arm in the sky as the shot fell through the net and then ran down the court after Crutcher.
“He’s the best shooter in the country,” Toppin said. “Of course, we knew it was going in.”
Saint Louis lofted one last long shot, but it wouldn’t have counted anyway. The Flyers celebrated with Crutcher under the opposite basket. Almost everyone got to hug the star of the game.
“I trust this man,” Dayton’s Trey Landers said of Crutcher. “He’s one of the best point guards I’ve ever played with. I knew he was going to make a play. Coach told him to get a high-angle screen, and I’ll live with the results with Jalen. Big-time shot by him.”
Grant thought about calling a timeout after the go-ahead free throw by Collins but had already told Crutcher the play.
“We were able to flow pretty quickly,” Grant said. “They got back, so I said, ‘Let’s go ahead and let it run.’ Obi set a great screen to free Jalen up, and Jalen made a heck of a shot to win it.”
This was Dayton’s first victory on a buzzer-beater since Grant’s first game as Dayton coach in 2017. Josh Cunningham scored after catching a lob pass to beat Ball State. The last time Dayton won a game on a 3-pointer in the final seconds in overtime was 2014 when Devin Oliver hit a bank shot against Mississippi.
For a Dayton team that could move into the top 10 of the Associated Press poll on Monday for the first time since 1967, this goes down as one of the most exciting victories in recent memory. Crutcher picked a good time for his most clutch moment.
“Man, he’s got extreme confidence,” Grant said. “He doesn’t get rattled. He’s one of those guys … the moment’s never too big for him. It’s great to see that. He scored the last seven points down the stretch. We just put the ball in his hands and let him make plays. He did a heck of a job.”
Asked what it takes to make such shots said, “Just a lot of confidence, and you’ve got to be poised out on the court, especially if I’m the point guard. My teammates are looking at me because I’m the one bringing the ball up the court.”
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