Three takeaways from Dayton’s exhibition game vs. Ohio State

Oct. 22—Students in the front of the Red Scare student section held up a sign reading, “Thank you, Buckeyes,” as Ohio State players were introduced before the game Sunday at UD Arena.

Earlier in the week, Dayton Flyers Athletic Director Neil Sullivan asked fans to “welcome and support” the Buckeyes because of the circumstances of the charity exhibition game. It was a game about more than basketball because it was promoting adolescent and young adult mental health and suicide prevention.

From all appearances, Dayton fans, all 13,407 of them in the sold-out crowd, went along with Sullivan’s message. Holtmann was asked after the game if the fans were nice to him and his players.

“The Dayton fans were incredible,” Holtmann said, “And they didn’t need to be too nice.”

On the court, the Buckeyes were not nice to the Flyers if you judge only by the final score. Ohio State pulled away in the final 10 minutes for a 78-70 victory in the first meeting between the programs since Vee Sanford lifted Dayton to a 60-59 victory in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2014 with a bank shot in the final seconds.

The result didn’t matter as much as the message delivered Thursday during “The Spotlight, To Shine A Light On Mental Health” at UD Arena and throughout the game Sunday on the video board. Everything was done with Dayton coach Anthony Grant’s late daughter Jay, who died by suicide in 2022, in mind.

“I’ll start off just by extending my gratitude once again to coach Holtmann and Ohio State University,” Grant said, “for their willingness to participate in this event and bring a spotlight and bring awareness to what our goal was for my wife (Chris) and I. This was very personal for us, the events leading up to this game. Just the idea that we were able to help a little bit in terms of bringing a level of awareness, hopefully, to people in our community about the resources that are available in regards to mental health and mental illness, it may make a difference for one person, one family, and so I’m grateful for that.”

Here are three takeaways from the basketball part of the night:

1. Neither team went all out for victory: The 12 scholarship players on Dayton’s roster played between 24 and nine minutes with the top returning player, DaRon Holmes, seeing a total of 16 minutes and not playing at all in the final 16 minutes.

Ohio State’s top returning player, Bruce Thornton, played 27 minutes. The Buckeyes played nine players between 18 and 27 minutes, and two more players saw fewer than three minutes.

Both coaches used the opportunity to experiment with different combinations of players.

“I think this was practice number 18,” Grant said. “We got a chance to have a practice with an unfamiliar opponent so we can learn more about ourselves, and we got to have a practice in front of 13,000-plus. That’s a great learning experience. We have a lot of young guys. It’s their first time either in our system or some of them in college basketball and, and to see them and how they react to different situations and where we are in terms of our habits, where we are in terms of our understanding of our system on both sides of the ball, this is a good measuring stick.”

Grant said Dayton has 10 more practices before the season opener Nov. 6 against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

2. Dayton focused on 3-pointers on offense: The Flyers made 12 of 32 shots from long range (35.7%). Enoch Cheeks, who made 5 of 5 in the first half and missed his only attempt in the second half, had the most success. DaRon Holmes made two early 3-pointers. Kobe Elvis made two 3s in the second half.

“Over half our shots were from the 3-point line,” Grant said. “We have an identity that we want to play to offensively and defensively. With what the defense was giving us tonight, I thought we had some good looks that didn’t go in.”

3. The Flyers did a good job on the boards but were hurt by turnovers: Dayton won the rebounding battle 33-30 and had 14 offensive rebounds to Ohio State’s five. Dayton had 17 turnovers to Ohio State’s 16, but Ohio State had 20 points off turnovers to Dayton’s 11 and scored 12 points on the fast break, several times off Dayton turnovers.

If the exhibition game is any indication of the rotation Grant will use during the season, he started Holmes, Cheeks, Elvis, Malachi Smith and Nate Santos. Koby Brea, Javon Bennett, Petras Padegimas and Zimi Nwokeji were the first players off the bench. Isaac Jack was the 10th player into the game and was followed by Jaiun Simon in the first half. Marvel Allen was the last player to see action and played all nine of his minutes in the second half.


Former Dayton star Obi Toppin presented Anthony Grant and his wife Chris a check for $20,000 for Jay’s Light Foundation during a timeout in the first half. Grant did not know about the donation until moments before posing for a photo with Toppin, Chris and Rudy Flyer and a giant check. Ricardo Greer pulled Grant out of a timeout to tell him he was needed at center court.

“I can’t say enough about Obi Toppin,” Grant said. “His generosity, his heart, that’s just pure love. I’m extremely grateful. I didn’t know that was happening today.”


All 12 scholarship players scored for Dayton. Enoch Cheeks led the way with 17 points, all in the first half. DaRon Holmes II also scored all 10 of his points in the first half. The three freshmen — Petras Padegimas (8), Jaiun Simon (3) and Marvel Allen (4) — combined for 15 points.


Dayton plays Cedarville University, a NCAA Division II program, in its second and final exhibition game at 2 p.m. Saturday at UD Arena. The teams last met in an exhibition game before the 2021-22 season. Dayton won 94-60. The teams also played before the 2019-20 season. The Flyers won 93-60.

Dayton then opens the regular season at 7 p.m. Nov. 6 against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.


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