ANALYSIS: 3 takeaways from Dayton’s loss at Rhode Island

Archie Miller becomes the first former UD coach to beat the Flyers

KINGSTON, R.I. — Archie Miller made a beeline for Anthony Grant as soon as he walked onto the court before the game Wednesday. The two head coaches met at center court as is customary at every college basketball game. The last two Dayton Flyers coaches chatted a little longer than most coaches.

Explore» PHOTOS: Dayton vs. Rhode Island

Miller then moved through the handshake line, spending extra time with UD trainer Mike Mulcahey, the only person on the bench during his time at Dayton who is still on the Dayton bench. Then he greeted Dayton’s longtime director of communications, Doug Hauschild, and the voice of the Flyers, WHIO’s Larry Hansgen.

Almost six years after he broke the heart of many Dayton fans by leaving UD for the head coaching job at Indiana, Miller delivered another blow by coaching his Rhode Island team to a 75-70 victory against Dayton at the Ryan Center. It was the first game between Miller and Grant, who replaced Miller in the spring of 2017.

“I don’t cherish playing them or the people,” Miller said. “I really like their staff and their administration. I’ve talked enough about them. I don’t know any of those guys on the team. I don’t have any connection to those kids on that team. Playing them is about us. It’s about our guys. It was about competing hard tonight and playing against a good team. There’s nothing special that got me really jacked up for this game. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the place. Always will. I’ve got a lot of respect for Anthony and his staff and his team. They’re very good. I think they have a lot of good things in store for them as they continue to get healthy. But this was about us tonight.

Dayton (13-8, 5-3) has lost three of its last four games since winning seven straight games. This was its worst loss of the season in terms of the quality of the opponent. Rhode Island (7-13, 2-6) had lost three games in a row and ranks 241st in the NCAA Evaluation Tool.

Dayton had won three straight games in the series. It fell to Rhode Island for the first time since Feb. 16, 2021, when it lost 91-89 in double overtime at the Ryan Center

Here are three takeaways from Dayton’s 21st game:

1. The Flyers wasted a strong start: Dayton led 22-11 after a layup by Malachi Smith at the 9:56 mark. The Rams began a 17-1 run on two free throws by Brayon Freeman at the 8:56 mark. Dayton didn’t make another field goal until a dunk by DaRon Holmes II with 1:23 to play.

Dayton trailed 32-27 at halftime, and its slump continued in the second half. It scored three points in the first 4½ minutes and saw Rhode Island push its lead to 43-30 at the 15:28 mark.

“We started the game with the right focus and the right energy,” Grant said. “Rhode Island is a gritty team, a physical team. As the game wore on, we started doing less and less of the hard things that are required to win on the road and win against anybody.”

2. Rhode Island hurt Dayton at the free-throw line: The Flyers shot better from the field than the Rams (50-46%) and took two more shots. Turnovers weren’t a big issue. Dayton had 12. Rhode Island had 11. Dayton even shot better from the 3-point line, making 7 of 17 to Rhode Island’s 6 of 22.

At the line, however, Rhode Island made 23 of 26, and Dayton made 11 of 18.

“Their ability to get to the free-throw line tonight,” Grant said, “and their ability to attack our paint and get buckets offensive rebounds, free throws, those are things that coming in we said we had to do, and we did not do them consistently enough tonight to be able to win.”

3. Dayton still hasn’t completed a serious comeback this season: Every time, Dayton had faced a double-digit deficit this season, it has lost. On the other hand, Dayton has blown double-digit leads in five of its eight losses.

In the locker room after the game, Dayton guard Malachi Smith said the players talked about the need for togetherness, something that has been missing on the court in the last two games.

“We need to play more connected,” he said.

Smith also knows Dayton needs to find something deep inside itself to save this season.

“We need to be that dog team we were last year,” he said.

STAR OF THE GAME

Guard Ishmael Leggett led Rhode Island with 25 points. He made 7 of 17 field goals and 11 of 11 free throws. He entered the game averaging 15.8 points per game. This was his second-highest scoring game of the season. He had 34 against Tulane in November.

STAT OF THE GAME

Dayton’s last two opponents, George Washington and Rhode Island, have made 44 of 52 free throws (84.6%). Prior to these two games, no team had made more than 14 free throws against Dayton.

LOOKING AHEAD

Dayton plays Richmond (11-10, 4-4) at 4 p.m. Saturday at UD Arena. Richmond lost 85-76 at Massachusetts (12-8, 3-5) on Wednesday. The Spiders have lost three of their last four games.

SATURDAY’S GAME

Richmond at Dayton, 4 p.m., CBS Sports Network, 1290, 95.7

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