The Anthony Grant era started with a dramatic last-second victory for the Dayton Flyers.
Josh Cunningham’s basket with 0.1 seconds to play beat Ball State 78-77 on Friday at UD Arena. Cunningham led the Flyers with 22 points, none bigger than his last one. Xeyrius Williams threw an in-bounds pass to him with under 2 seconds left. He caught it at the rim and dropped it in for an improbable win.
Dayton blew a 7-point lead in the final minutes but found a way to win. Tayler Persons put Ball State ahead with seconds to play with a layup.
Darrell Davis scored 16 points. John Crosby had 13.
The Flyers opened the season on a 14-0 run against Ball State only to see the Cardinals charge back in the final minutes of the first half. Dayton’s lead stood at 36-33 at halftime.
Here’s a recap of the first half:
Best performance: Xeyrius Williams has eight points and five rebounds for Dayton. He hit his first two 3-point attempts of the season during Dayton’s game-opening run.
Key offensive stat: The Cardinals got off to a slow start from 3-point range but made 5 of 16 in the half. Two of the made 3s were long desperate attempts as the shot clock expired.
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Best play: Josh Cunningham, who has 10 points for the Flyers, had a block at the rim in the opening minutes. That was one reason Ball State didn’t score in the first six minutes.
Foul trouble: Cunningham, Jalen Crutcher and Kostas Antetokounmpo all have two fouls for Dayton.
Turning point: Dayton led 32-19 with 3:45 left. Ball State then went on a 10-0 run.
Opener history: Dayton took a 12-game winning streak in openers into this game. Its last loss came in 2004, 73-66 to Eastern Kentucky.
Series history: Before this game, the Flyers and Cardinals had played six times but only twice since 1958 despite being separated by only 84 miles. The Flyers won five of the first six meetings, winning 80-65 in 2002 and 59-35 in 2010.
Expectations: Dayton and Ball State each received one vote in the Associated Press top-25 preseason poll. Dayton ranked 162nd in ESPN’s Basketball Power Index. Ball State ranked 115th.
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Dayton ranks 103rd in the KenPom.com rankings. Ball State is 139th. The Flyers had a 70-percent chance of winning, according to the website.
Looking ahead: The Flyers return to action following their opener with three games in South Carolina, home state of freshman guard Jordan Davis, at the Charleston Classic. They play Hofstra at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (ESPNU) and then play or Clemson or Ohio on Friday night. The possible Sunday opponents are: Temple, Auburn, Old Domininion and Indiana State.
Connections: The game featured a reunion of Devin Davis, Dayton’s new director of player development, and Ball State head coach James Whitford, who was an assistant coach at Miami University during his playing days.