Last-second shot gives Dayton win over Ball State in season opener
Ball State and Dayton returned to the court with 1.9 seconds remaining in the game.
The Cardinals led 77-76 in the season opener, and the Flyers had one more chance to get a victory in front of a sold-out crowd of 13,450 in the newly-renovated UD Arena.
There was one person Dayton was looking to get the ball to — redshirt junior Josh Cunningham, who led the Flyers in scoring with 22 points. Contested by 6-foot-8 forward Tahjai Teague and 6-foot-9 junior center Trey Moses, Cunningham managed to grab the ball a put it up from two feet out, giving Dayton the 78-77 lead and eventual victory.
Field goals - 46% (31-67)
3-pointers - 33% (9-27)
Free throws - 75% (6-8)
Bench points - 31
Field goals - 48% (28-58)
3-pointers - 25% (4-16)
Free throws - 78% (18-23)
Bench points - 11
"Tough ending and I just told the guys in the locker room that I thought we played a good game," head coach James Whitford said in a post game interview. "I felt this way all game, that we had a lot of the kind of first game discomfort, I felt like we were better than we played tonight."
Ball State started the game down 14-0 and three of its starters, Kyle Mallers, Tayler Persons and Francis Kiapway didn't score their first points until the beginning of the second half.
After a run last in the first half — led by freshman Zach Gunn and Teague, who finished the first half with nine and seven points, respectively — Ball State came back withing three points of Dayton.
In the second half, the lead changed five times until Dayton (1-0, 0-0 A-10) won in the final second of the game over Ball State (0-1, 0-0 MAC).
"The thing I was really proud of is that we hung in there," Whitford said. "We were down 14, we were up at moments where it looked like it was going to go our way and then we were down.
"It's a one possession difference, that's it. One 50-50 ball, it's the difference in the game and you can't lose your mind on that."
Last season, Dayton finished ranked 36 in the RPI rankings and received five votes in the Associated Press Top 25 preseason rankings.
All 10 of Ball State players who entered the season opener scored at least one basket.
Teague led the way with a double-double, scoring 14 points and pulling in 10 rebounds for Ball State. Gunn also finished with 11 points and five rebounds. Persons, who didn't score a basket until the second half, also finished with 14 points and a team-high eight assists.
"[Persons] is playing the game great as a point guard," Whitford said. "Anyone who ever thinks that's not his natural position is crazy."
As a unit, the Cardinals finished with 36 points in the paint and 31 points from its bench. Ball State finished shooting 46 percent (31-67) from the field and 33 percent (9-27) from 3-point range.
One of the places Whitford said could be improved was dribble penetration, as Dayton shot 23 free throws compared to Ball State's eight on the night.
Ball State returns to action on Nov. 15 against the University of Oklahoma in part of ESPN's Phil Knight event.