The Dayton Flyers coaching staff and starters watched the final five minutes from the bench with mostly blank faces Wednesday. At that point, as George Mason put the finishing touches on an 85-67 victory, the time for screaming and frowning had ended.
Dayton had won three straight games on Valentine’s Day. It had seven straight victories against the Patriots. Neither of those trends foreshadowed what happened at EagleBank Arena.
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In short, Dayton played its worst game of the season. George Mason ended the first half on an 11-2 run to break a 25-25 tie and pushed its lead to double digits five minutes into the second half. It stayed there the rest of the game and grew to as many as 24 points.
“We didn’t play well enough,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “I didn’t coach well enough. We don’t have the luxury as a team (of winning) if we don’t show up with our best. My job is to make sure we were prepared today, and for whatever reason we we weren’t prepared.”
Dayton (11-14, 5-8) suffered its sixth loss in the last eight games. It fell three games under .500 for the first time this season.
With five games to go, the Flyers sit all alone in 10th place, one game back of Duquesne, George Mason and St. Joseph’s (all 6-7) and one game ahead of four teams tied for last at 4-9: George Washington, Massachusetts, La Salle and Fordham.
The Flyers didn’t shoot the ball well against George Mason (38.2 percent). They didn’t defend well. The Patriots shot 50.9 percent from the field and 52.6 percent from 3-point range (10 of 19). George Mason beat Dayton 39-26 on the boards.
There were no bright spots for the Flyers.
“I didn’t think we played well either half, to be honest,” Grant said. “We didn’t have the fire and the intensity on the defensive end. Obviously, you’re going to have nights when shots don’t fall, but you’ve got to have a toughness about you that you can play through that on the defensive end and get stops and get rebounds. We missed 60 percent of our shots in the first half, and we had zero offensive rebounds.”