The Dayton Flyers had no choice about when and where they would play in the NIT. Administrators had to scramble Sunday night to reserve a charter flight. The plane wasn’t big enough so some normal members of the traveling party, including several managers and the radio team, Larry Hansgen and Josh Postorino, as well as junior guard Trey Landers, who needed a later flight so he could attend a funeral, took a commercial flight to Denver on Monday.
Once they arrived at the CU Events Center for a practice Monday night, the Flyers realized why Colorado has the second-best home-court advantage in the country, according to KenPom.com. The altitude (5,328 feet) tired them fast.
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A day later after a 78-73 loss to the Buffaloes, the players weren’t using it as an excuse, but it didn’t make their jobs easier.
CU swingman Tyler Bey finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, his 16th double-double of the season, despite suffering what appeared to be a left leg injury midway through the second half. The Las Vegas native ran to the locker room a short while later but returned to the contest with 5:23 left and with the hosts clinging to a 66-63 lead. All-league guard McKinley Wright chipped in 19 points and five assists.
Tyler Beys 16th double-double, DShawn Schwartz power CU into 2nd round of NIT
“I ran up the court once, and I was breathing hard,” Crutcher said. “We had to adjust to that.”
Record breaker: Toppin scored his first points of the season on a dunk and his last points of the season on a dunk, punctuating Dayton’s frustrations in the final seconds with a windmill slam. He finished the season with a school-record 83 dunks.
Toppin also set the Dayton record for highest-scoring average by a freshman (14.4 points per game). Johnny Davis had held the record of 14.3 since 1973-74.
Toppin shot 66.6 percent from the field. That’s the best mark by a freshman and third-best mark in Dayton history behind Sean Finn (70.7 in 2002-03) and Chris Daniels (68.8 in 1995-96).
Final numbers: Josh Cunningham scored five points in his final game and finished his career with 964 points in a Dayton uniform. He ranks 52nd in school history between Kevin Conrad (983) and Charles Cooke (957).
The Buffs seemed to gain some momentum after a see-saw first five minutes as Wrights trey with 14:46 to go in the first period gave the hosts an 11-9 edge. But the Flyers shifted gears after that, pushing the tempo and stringing together an 11-2 run over the next two-and-a-half minutes.
Cunningham’s final career field-goal percentage (63.9 percent) ranks second behind Sean Finn (64.7).
Last game: Senior walk-on Jack Westerfield entered the game in the final seconds. It was his 23rd and final career appearance.
Looking ahead: Only one opponent in the 2019-20 season is known. Dayton will play Colorado again on Dec. 21 in the Chicago Legends event at the United Center.
Dayton also will play Nov. 25-27 in the Maui Invitational for the first time since 2013. Possible opponents include BYU, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan State, UCLA, Virginia Tech and host Chaminade.
Star of the game: DShawn Schwartz. The sophomore guard made a career-best five 3-pointers and shared the team lead with 19 points.
Whats next: The second round of the NIT. The Buffs await Wednesdays winner between top-seeded Alabama and Norfolk State. A Norfolk State upset would mean another home game for CU, otherwise the Buffs will travel to Alabama.
Overcoming a hot-shooting start to each half by the visiting Dayton Flyers, the Buffaloes won the rebounding battle and turned up their own offense at opportune moments, outlasting Dayton for a 78-73 victory late Tuesday in an NIT first-round game at the CU Events Center.
Colorado will advance to play the winner between Norfolk State at Alabama on Wednesday night (5 p.m. MT, ESPNU). The date of that second-round will be announced later but will be held sometime between Friday and Monday. A win by Alabama would give the Buffs an opportunity for some long-delayed payback from what remains the teams only meeting, a win by the Crimson Tide in the semifinals of the 2011 NIT.
“That was a high-level basketball game tonight. The people that came tonight and saw that in person I think left saying we saw two good teams,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “Dayton is probably the most efficient offensive team weve played against all year long. We knew that from watching film, and then you see them in person and theyve got good players.”
Dayton led by seven points a little more than five minutes into the second half when the Buffs took the lead for good with an 8-0 run. The Flyers remained within one point after a pair of free throws from Ryan Mikesell with 5 minutes, 32 seconds remaining, but CU got two 3-pointers from DShawn Schwartz in another 8-0 run that essentially sealed the win.
Schwartz enjoyed a big night for the Buffs, hitting a career-high five 3-pointers while sharing CUs team scoring lead with 19 points and five rebounds. Bey finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while point guard McKinley Wright added 19 points and five assists.
Wright originally signed with Dayton out of high school but opened his recruiting again two years ago, eventually landing at CU, after a coaching change at Dayton.
“I was just trying to come out swinging just because it Dayton, just because it could be the last game,” Schwartz said. “I definitely wanted to fight hard for McKinley. I knew this game meant a lot to him. I think all our guys gave it their best shot tonight.”
Dayton, which led the Atlantic 10 Conference in field goal percentage, finished with a .545 mark but CU was solid as well, finishing at .443 while going 8-for-21 on 3-pointers. The Buffs also outrebounded Dayton 34-29 while committing a season-low seven turnovers.
Dayton enjoyed an early advantage after delivering the exact sort of performance that likely was on the Buffs scouting report by getting good shots and knocking them down. The Flyers hit 12 of their first 17 shots from the field while CU forwards Evan Battey and Lucas Siewert went to the bench after they each picked up their second foul.
Dayton used its hot start from the field to build an eight-point lead midway through the first half and still led by seven with under six minutes left in the opening frame when the Buffs abruptly came alive, reeling off a 10-0 run that pushed the Buffs ahead 33-30. Much like his timely first-half performance against Oregon State in the Pac-12 Conference quarterfinals last week, redshirt sophomore Alex Starting provided a huge spark during the 10-0 run, scoring half the points while also drawing three Dayton fouls.
Toppin 9-12 1-2 21, Mikesell 4-8 4-4 13, Cunningham 2-4 1-2 5, Davis 5-10 2-3 12, Crutcher 6-12 0-0 14, Landers 3-7 0-0 6, Cohill 1-2 0-0 2, Westerfield 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-55 8-11 73.
Battey 3-5 2-2 8, Gatling 1-6 2-2 4, M.Wright 6-14 5-5 19, Schwartz 7-13 0-0 19, Bey 5-11 4-5 14, Strating 2-3 1-2 5, Siewert 1-4 0-0 3, Kountz 2-5 2-2 6. Totals 27-61 16-18 78.
Halftime – Colorado 37, Dayton 35. 3-point goals – Dayton 5-18 (Toppin 2-3, Crutcher 2-5, Mikesell 1-5, Cohill 0-1, Davis 0-4), Colorado 8-21 (Schwartz 5-8, M.Wright 2-4, Siewert 1-4, Kountz 0-1, Gatling 0-4). Fouled out – Mikesell. Rebounds – Dayton 29 (Toppin, Mikesell 6); Colorado 34 (Bey 12). Assists – Dayton 12 (Crutcher 5), Colorado 12 (M.Wright 5). Total fouls – Dayton 19, Colorado 12. A – 3,091.