‘A lot of disappointment:’ Flyers missed last 15 shots in A-10 final loss to VCU

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Dayton had worst 3-point shooting game in six years; Holmes named tournament MVP

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Red, white and blue confetti made a mess of the court at the Barclays Center on Sunday. It would have been the perfect color if the Dayton Flyers had won the Atlantic 10 Conference championship. For Virginia Commonwealth, the color of the confetti carpet didn’t dampen the mood.

No. 1 seed VCU (27-7) completed a dominant season in the A-10 with a 68-56 victory against No. 2 seed Dayton (22-12), earning its second tournament championship since joining the conference 11 seasons ago, against a UD program that owns one title in 28 seasons.

A 19-6 run by VCU in the final 10 minutes kept Dayton out of the NCAA tournament for the sixth straight year. The Flyers have failed to win the A-10 tournament in their last 19 chances and still have never won the event outside UD Arena.

It was a heartbreaking ending to a disappointing season for Dayton, though no one knew for sure if it was the end because of the possibility of an NIT bid.

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

“First of all, congratulations to VCU,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “Obviously, they had an outstanding year before the postseason, won the league outright and then were able to secure the championship today. So my hat’s off to them. For us, obviously, there’s a big level of disappointment that we weren’t able to finish the job. These guys have done everything that myself and our staff and their teammates have asked of them in terms of the sacrifices and overcoming adversity over the course of the year to get to this point.

“As you can imagine, there’s a lot of disappointment in our locker room right now because we weren’t able to accomplish the mission, but I’m really proud of what these guys were able to accomplish in the regular season and getting to this point and making it to the championship game and having this opportunity.”

Dayton lost, in part, because it shot 13.6% (3 of 22) from 3-point range. That’s not only the worst mark of the season but the worst UD mark since it hit the same number (3 of 22) on Dec. 30, 2016, in a 65-55 victory against La Salle at UD Arena.

Koby Brea (0 of 5), R.J. Blakney (0 of 4) and Toumani Camara (0 of 3) combined to miss all 12 of their attempts.

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Even with the outside shots not falling, Dayton built a 36-30 halftime lead and then scored the first five points of the second half to take a 41-30 lead with 18:59 to play. VCU responded with a 14-2 run over the next five minutes.

Dayton got back on top, 47-44, with back-to-back baskets by DaRon Holmes II, who led all scorers with 28 points, and Mustapha Amzil, who scored 17.

In the last 13 minutes, however, Dayton made 1 of 20 shots. It missed its last 15 shots after Holmes made a desperation 3-pointer before the shot clock buzzer with 10:12 to play. That gave Dayton its last lead, 50-49.

On the other end of the court, VCU scored seven points on second-chance opportunities in the last four minutes to push a 58-54 lead to 65-56.

“We were struggling to rebound the ball and play defense,” Holmes said. “Those are the two biggest things that win championships.”

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Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

While Holmes and Amzil carried Dayton’s offense, VCU had a more balanced scoring attack. A-10 Player of the Year Ace Baldwin scored 16 points. Jamir Watkins and Jalen DeLoach each had 13.

Eight players scored for VCU. Five scored for Dayton.

“I thought that at about the 10-minute mark, we just got tougher,” VCU coach Mike Rhoades said. “We just got a little bit tougher and we started starting defending better at the rim and found ways to rebound. ... Some of the guys just made winning plays to win a championship. We talk about being tough in our program and celebrate each other’s success. I just think our guys did that today, especially in that second half. We fed off each other. I was really proud of them.”

Dayton flew home from Newark, N.J., after the game. The NIT selection show started at 9 p.m. Dayton has played in that tournament three times in Grant’s tenure.

Asked about whether he hoped for a NIT bid, Grant said, “I think our group has been banged up quite a bit. No excuses, but we’re far from healthy. We’ve got guys that are available. So I think we have to look at it and see what’s best individually and collectively for this group.”

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

All-Tournament Team

Holmes averaged 21.7 points in three games and was named the most outstanding player of the tournament. He’s the second Dayton player to win that award and first since Ramod Marshall in 2003. He’s the first player to win the award from a losing team since Pat Carroll of Saint Joseph’s in 2005.

Dayton’s Toumani Camara was also named to the all-tournament team along with Fordham’s Khalid Moore, Saint Joseph’s guard Eric Reynolds, and VCU’s Baldwin and Watkins.

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