Dayton season preview: Top 10 memorable openers of past 35 years

Flyers won first game of Anthony Grant era on a buzzer beater in 2017

The season begins Monday — finally — for the Dayton Flyers 232 days after the 2021-22 season ended.

The game against Lindenwood University, a new Division I program, shouldn’t have much drama, but you never know. There have been surprises and struggles on opening night, though Dayton has won its first game 17 seasons in a row.

Here’s a look back at 10 season openers to remember from the past 35 years through excerpts of the game stories from the Dayton Daily News:

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

1. Nov. 9, 2013: Dayton 81, IPFW 80

What we wrote: Jordan Sibert had never hit a shot like this. Not when he was 5. Not when he was a senior at Cincinnati Princeton High School. Not when he was a freshman with the Buckeyes.

Even in his dreams — and he had a lot of time to think, sitting on the bench last season after transferring from Ohio State — Sibert didn’t imagine his Dayton career starting like this. His 3-pointer with one second left gave the Flyers an 81-80 victory over IPFW at UD Arena in the season opener for both teams.

Fans with their arms crossed across their chests seconds before, silently contemplating a devastating start to the season, found themselves on their feet marveling at November Madness as Sibert’s shot dropped through the net.

“I did want to move the crowd,” Sibert said. “That’s what we apparently were able to do. I give the credit to my teammates for that play. My shot was good, but the effort my teammates gave was great.”

2. Nov. 10, 2017: Dayton 78, Ball State 77

What we wrote: Josh Cunningham watched his winning shot for the first time on a reporter’s cell phone seconds after completing a post-game interview. It won’t be the last time he sees it. This one will play on repeat for years in the mind of Cunningham and for everyone in the sellout crowd of 13,350 at UD Arena.

This wasn’t The Shot by Ed Young or The Kiss By Vee Sanford. Considering the circumstances, however, The Lob will go down in the Dayton Flyers record book as one of the most memorable last-second baskets in school history.

“I didn’t panic,” said Cunningham, a redshirt junior forward who’s Dayton’s lone captain. “I’ve seen big moments like this happen before. You can’t panic. When you panic, that’s when things start to go the wrong way. You’ve got to stay calm and execute what the play is.”

Cunningham’s shot with 0.1 seconds to play beat Ball State 78-77 at UD Arena.

3. Nov. 20, 2000: Dayton 80, Connecticut 66

What we wrote: After looking at videotape of Connecticut's season-opening victory over Quinnipiac, the University of Dayton Flyers believed they could beat the 13th-ranked Huskies.

On Monday, in front of 2,500 spectators in sauna-like heat at the Lahaina Civic Center, the Flyers proved their point by thoroughly outplaying UConn en route to an 80-66 triumph in the 17th Maui Invitational.

In doing so, Dayton earned a date with No. 1-ranked Arizona tonight at 9:30 (EST). The game will be televised by ESPN.

The Flyers are convinced that they can compete with the Wildcats, but there is a sobering statistic in the UD media guide. This will be only the 13th time UD has played a team ranked No. 1 in the country by The Associated Press, and the Flyers were able to win on only two of the first 12 occasions. Dayton is winless in nine games against No. 1s during the last 40 years.

That doesn't take anything away from Monday's stunning upset of the Huskies.

The biggest question mark about this year's UD team was how well its undersized post players would fare against taller, stronger opponents. Yuanta Holland, Nate Green and Keith Waleskowski answered that question with solid performances against UConn.

The 6-foot-7 Holland, playing a sensational game, scored a career-high 24 points and grabbed six rebounds.

"Yuanta stepped up big time," guard David Morris said. "He's a prime-time player."

4. Nov. 19, 1999: Dayton 70, New Mexico 57

What we wrote: The University of Dayton Flyers got their season off to a rousing start with a 70-57 upset victory over host New Mexico in the CoSIDA Classic.

Capitalizing on some kick-out passes from Mark Ashman, sophomore point guard David Morris had a career-high 17 points, and the Flyers ended New Mexico's 41-game winning streak against nonconference foes at The Pit.

The Flyers (1-0) and Samford (1-0), who were expected to collide in the consolation game tonight, will instead meet for the championship at 10:35 p.m. Dayton has never met the Birmingham, Ala., school in basketball.

Samford spoiled the expected St. John's-New Mexico matchup by upsetting the 15th-ranked Red Storm, 68-60, in Friday's first game. Now New Mexico will play St. John's in the preliminary.

"We felt very comfortable about coming in here and winning," UD coach Oliver Purnell said. "The most important thing was our players felt that way."

Credit: Stringer

Credit: Stringer

5. Nov. 10, 2007: Dayton 78, East Tennessee State 74

What we wrote: Brian Roberts and his Dayton teammates knew facing East Tennessee State would be about as much fun as a migraine, and they got exactly what they expected: a worthy foe capable of scoring in bunches, applying relentless pressure and keeping the outcome in doubt until the final minute.

But the one thing the defending Atlantic Sun Conference champions couldn't do was get the Flyers rattled.

"We have some guys with a lot of experience on this team," Roberts said. "We've been through a lot. ... We know if we keep fighting and scrapping, everything will be all right in the end."

Roberts scored 19 of his 31 points in the second half, and Chris Wright racked up 22 points and 13 rebounds in his collegiate debut to lead the Flyers to a taut 78-74 victory before 12,115 nervous fans.

6. Nov. 28, 1987: Dayton 63, Wittenberg 61

What we wrote: If there was any question as to whether Negele Knight is healthy, he answered it Saturday night.

Knight, returning to the University of Dayton basketball lineup after a year’s absence, buried a 16-foot jump shot with three seconds to play as the Flyers escaped the season opener with a harrowing 63-61 victory over upset-minded Wittenberg before a crowd of 11,693 at UD Arena.

And that wasn’t the half of it.

Knight scored a career-high 24 points, had nine assists and personally escorted the Flyers from the brink of disaster with his leadership.

Wittenberg’s Tigers, hustling all over the court and out-rebounding the taller UD team, embarrassed the Flyers in the first half and led 34-24 at intermission.

7. Nov. 25, 1992: Illinois 86, Dayton 78

What we wrote: It happened without warning

The University of Dayton Flyers appeared to be on the way to an upset victory over the University of Illinois Wednesday night in the Great Alaska Shootout. They were playing confidently. They had a 68-60 lead with 2:20 remaining. And then they came apart like a chunk of ice separating from the front end of a glacier and crashing thunderously into the water. It was a classic collapse.

As soon as the Fighting Illini discovered a crack in Dayton's exterior, they went after the Flyers aggressively and turned them into a few harmless chunks of floating ice.

Andy Kaufmann, an 82 percent career free throw shooter for the Illini, sank a pair with 11 seconds remaining to tie the game at 70 and send it into overtime.

Illinois outscored the Dayton 16-8 in the five-minute overtime to hand the Flyers a heartbreaking 86-78 loss.

8. Nov. 23, 1991: Dayton 101, Austin Peay 94

What we wrote: The University of Dayton Flyers pulled away from a stubborn Austin Peay team in the last seven minutes and defeated the Governors 101-94 for their 41st consecutive victory in a home opener.

A crowd of 11,525 watched the Flyers struggle through much of the game against the smaller but aggressive visitors, but they got down to business when the game was on the line.

Chip Jones scored 31 points and Makor Shayok added 20 to lead Dayton in scoring, but the game will be remembered for the successful debut of 6-foot-10 freshman Chip Hare, who contributed 13 points and several rebounds.

9. Nov. 16, 2008: Dayton 52, Wofford 49

What we wrote: University of Dayton coach Brian Gregory was happy to see he could count on his defense being there when it was needed, but his team probably can't expect too many more happy endings to games unless it masters the other facets of the game.

The Flyers were bludgeoned on the boards and looked like a two-man operation too often on offense, but they produced enough clutch plays to pull out a 52-49 squeaker against Wofford.

Marcus Johnson, who had 17 points, had a steal and dunk to break a 44-all tie with 3:03 to go, and Chris Wright, who also had 17, then made a steal and was fouled on a breakaway, and he sank one of two free throws for a three-point edge.

But the Terriers, a middle-of-the-pack team from the Southern Conference (where Davidson reigns), wouldn't go away. They cut the deficit to two with 1:20 to go, but junior college transfer Rob Lowery, who missed his first five shots in his debut with the Flyers, drilled a 15-foot jumper with 48 seconds to go to push the lead back to four and swished two free throws with 15 ticks left to seal the decision.

"You've got to have a short memory," Lowery said. "Nobody remembers the first five or six shots, they just remember the last one.

Credit: Erik Schelkun

Credit: Erik Schelkun

10. Nov. 14, 2009: Dayton 90, Creighton 80

What we wrote: After studying Creighton like scientists going over a dinosaur fossil, University of Dayton coach Brian Gregory and his staff were convinced they'd see nothing but man-to-man defense in their team's season-opener Saturday.

But Bluejays coach Dana Altman, who didn't have his top rebounder and two frontcourt subs because of illness and injuries, threw the Flyers a twist with a soft fullcourt press and 2-3 zone, and it befuddled the nation's 21st-ranked outfit for a half.

"I'm just happy in the last two days we did some zone work," Gregory said. "We watched every game film from last year, and I think they played zone one game or two games. They played man on every one of their possessions in the exhibition games. We got more comfortable with it in the second half, no doubt about it."

The Flyers overcame a 10-point first-half deficit by hitting 18-of-32 shots (56 percent) after the break to pull away for a 90-80 victory before a sellout crowd of 13,435 at UD Arena.


Part 1: Fans dreaming big as always

Part 2: A-10 changes tournament format for first time in years

Part 3: A familiar face returns to A-10

Part 4:’s math likes the Flyers

Part 5: Three new walk-ons join roster

Part 6: Grant, Martin don’t look forward to coaching against each other

Part 7: Ranking difficult of non-conference opponents

Part 8: Free-throw percentage a stat to watch for Flyers

Part 9: UD roster again full of international talent

Part 10: Ranking quality of exempt tournaments

Part 11: How Grant’s first six teams compare

Part 12: The rising star of DaRon Holmes II

Part 13: How rare is returning five starters?

Part 14: Is NCAA tournament expansion coming?

Part 15: A short history of UD injuries

Part 16: A closer look at recruiting

Part 17: Dayton’s deep connection to New York

Part 18: Scouting UD’s first four opponents

Part 19: Three 2020 recruits enter Year 3

Part 20: Transfers will again play big roles

Part 21: Nwokeji could have bigger role in third season

Part 22: Update on former Flyers

Part 23: Ten fun facts about 2022-23 season

Part 24: Experts give their takes on Flyers

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