Obi Toppin and Jalen Crutcher watched a game Sunday steps from the court where they starred together for two seasons. Their enthusiastic reactions, which entertained fans during their college days, translated well to their new roles as fans.
While Toppin, the consensus national player of the year in 2020 during his final season at Dayton, returned to see his old team play last season, this was a new experience for Crutcher, who talked about it as he walked up the ramp after the game.
“I wanted to lace them up and play right now,” Crutcher said.
The former Flyers, best friends during their Dayton days and best friends now, watched the Dayton alumni team, the No. 6 seed Red Scare, beat No. 3 seed CitiTeam 75-70 in the first round of The Basketball Tournament at UD Arena. The quest for the $1 million prize, which will require six victories by the Red Scare in 10 days at UD Arena, continues at 9 p.m. Tuesday. They will play the No. 2 Golden Eagles or No. 7 Ohio 1804.
Toppin and Crutcher, who sat behind the bench throughout the game Sunday, will attend the game as fans again. No one cheered harder in the crowd of 2,254.
“I go everywhere with Obi,” Crutcher said. “We’re still brothers.”
Toppin saw his old team lose 53-52 to Virginia Commonwealth in January. This was almost another disastrous loss for the home team. The Red Scare saw a 63-47 lead at the end of the third quarter trimmed to 65-63 with four minutes to play.
After a basketball by Vee Sanford with 3:39 to play, the Red Scare called timeout to bring the Elam Ending into effect. That happens at the first clock stoppage under four minutes. At that point, eight points was added to the Red Scare’s lead to create the target score of 75. The first team to reach that total would win the game.
Darrell Davis, who led the Red Scare with 15 points, scored the first four points for the Red Scare in the Elam Ending. Trevor Thompson, a former Ohio State center, gave the Red Scare a 73-70 lead on a turnaround jump shot. Then Jordan Sibert hit a short bank shot on a fast break to give the Red Scare the victory.
Sibert won his first game at UD Arena on a last-second 3-pointer against IPFW in 2013. He helped the Flyers beat Boise State in the First Four on a 3-pointer in the final minute in his last game at UD Arena before Sunday. Now he’s got another moment in his collection.
“There’s something about this place, man,” Sibert said.
There was as much relief as excitement after the final shot.
“They did a good job down the stretch competing,” Sibert said, “and we got a little lazy on the back end, but we finish our games. That’s what we do here. We finished strong.”
The No. 1 seed in the eight-team Dayton Region, The Money Team, also survived an upset bid in the first game of the day before beating Athletics Miami 71-67. Former BYU star Jimmer Fredette scored 29 points.
“A win is a win,” Red Scare coach Joey Gruden said. “Survive and advance. The TBT is a hard tournament. Anytime you can win and have a chance to play another game and stick together, good things can happen. One game at a time. We shot 19% (from 3-point range), and we found a way to win, so I’ll take that any day of the week.”
The Red Scare made 6 of 30 3-pointers. Davis, who made 2 of 5, was the only player to make more than one.
Sibert made 1 of 6 and scored nine points. Sanford made 1 of 6 and scored seven points. Ryan Mikesell made 1 of 5 and also scored seven points.
Smith, playing in front of Dayton fans for the first time since 2017, led Dayton with six assists and added nine points.
“It was everything I imagined it would be,” Smith said. “It brings back a lot of memories, and getting a win is definitely the best memory.”
Several current Flyers watched the game from the stands. Malachi Smith cheered the hardest after any basket by his brother Scoochie. DaRon Holmes, Mustapha Amzil and Koby Brea sat together near Smith in the lower section. Dayton assistant coaches Ricardo Greer and James Kane were also among the fans.
The Red Scare needed the support to escape with a victory.
“It’s like a dream being able to come back here and play in front of these fans,” Davis said. “Not too many people get the opportunity of playing in their home gym after college.”
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