There’s a thin line between good and great in college basketball. There’s little doubt the No. 13 Dayton Flyers are very good. They are a couple of plays away from being great — a couple of plays away from being undefeated.
Dayton players left the court at the United Center on Saturday with their hands on their heads or their heads bowed in disappointment following a 78-76 overtime loss to Colorado. Seconds earlier, D’Shawn Schwartz made a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer, slapping hands with fans in the front row before his teammates surrounded him in a celebratory mob.
“The way the game ended, it’s tough to take,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “But we’ll go back and look at some things that we can learn from this game in terms of what we need to do to make sure we don’t have this feeling again. This is a team I think still has a lot of room to grow, a lot of room to improve, and what we have got to be able to do is mature in some areas as a team to be able to reach the potential that we think we can reach.”
Turnovers, one of the weak spots for an offense that has thrived all season, cost Dayton in this game. It had 14, four more than Colorado, and four of those came in the first four minutes of the second half.
Colorado also grabbed 17 offensive rebounds to Dayton's eight and outscored the Flyers 16-11 in second-chance points. A number of those baskets came in the first half as Colorado dug itself out of a 19-5 hole. The Buffaloes also did a much better job getting to the free-throw line, making 17 of 21 while Dayton made 5 of 7.
All that added up to the second overtime defeat for Dayton (9-2), which lost 90-84 to Kansas in the Maui Invitational championship. This game was similar in that Dayton once again sent the game to overtime on a last-second 3-pointer. Jalen Crutcher made the big shot in Maui. It was Obi Toppin this time.
Toppin, who had 17 points and seven rebounds, tied the game at 66-66 on a 3-pointer with six seconds to play. He missed his fifth straight 3-pointer on Dayton’s previous possession 11 seconds earlier.
“The whole game I wasn’t hitting any threes,” Toppin said. “My teammates were staying with me, had trust in me, telling me to keep shooting if I was open. Don’t stop shooting. It’s crazy because right before that play, Trey (Landers) was looking at me. It’s like, ‘If you’re open, shoot the ball.’ It was in the timeout. I was like, ‘I got you.’ I guess it just went in. It was a good feeling.”
Toppin’s shot won’t be long remembered because of the final result. This one will hurt even more than the Kansas loss because the Flyers led 74-71 with 1:44 to play and led by one after a layup by Crutcher, who led Dayton with 19 points, with 10 seconds remaining. Then Schwartz hit the buzzer-beater.
Schwartz made 5 of 7 3-pointers and scored 20 points. He was the last person Dayton wanted to leave open — and he was as wide open as you can be.
Colorado’s Tyler Bey had the assist on the shot. Ibi Watson left Schwartz to double team Bey along with Ryan Mikesell on the baseline. Bey jumped and found Schwartz alone a step behind the 3-point line.
“I just took my time really,” Bey said. “I just passed it. He was wide open. He was the only person open, so I just passed it to him. It was like slow motion. It was great.”
Rodney Chatman might have had a chance to defend the shot but was knocked down by McKinley Wright in the paint.
“They threw the ball in the post,” Crutcher said. “We worked on it in practice that we were going to double the post. It was just a good find by him, a good shot.”
“I was trying to push him down the baseline as low as I could,” Mikesell said. “We him where we wanted, and he made a pretty good pass. He just got a good look. It was a good pass. Nothing but net.”
Dayton (9-2) failed to avenge its NIT first-round loss at Colorado in March, while Colorado (10-2) has answered back-to-back losses to Kansas and Northern Iowa with three straight victories. Colorado won in front of a crowd dominated by Dayton fans on a neutral court.
“This is going to show up as a neutral-court game,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said, “and it shouldn’t have been. It should be a road game. This was a road win.”