BROOKLYN, N.Y. — There were no tears as the Dayton Flyers left the court at the Barclays Center on Sunday — just blank stares of a team that hit one of the coldest shooting stretches in years at the worst possible time.
No. 2 seed Dayton lost 68-56 to No. 1 seed Virginia Commonwealth in the Atlantic 10 Conference championship game.
“Every time you’re in a championship game, you want to win,” forward Mustapha Amzil said. “It sucks anyway, no matter if you got (blown out) or not. I feel like we do have a March Madness-caliber team.”
The NCAA tournament show started about three hours after Dayton’s loss. VCU earned a No. 12 seed and will play No. 5 seed Saint Mary’s in the first round on Friday in Albany, N.Y.
Dayton flew home and waited to see if it would receive a NIT bid for the third straight season. Coach Anthony Grant was asked after the game if he hoped for a chance in the NIT.
“I think our group has been banged up quite a bit,” Grant said. “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.”
The group battled injuries from game No. 1 to game No. 34 and played without starting guard Kobe Elvis in the A-10 tournament. Here are three takeaways from the A-10 final:
1. Dayton’s offense faltered late: Dayton missed its last 15 shots and didn’t make a field goal in the last 10 minutes. VCU outscored Dayton 19-6 in the last 10 minutes and ended the game on an 8-0 run.
VCU coach Mike Rhoades said he told his team with 10 minutes to play, “We will not win this game if we don’t get tougher on defense. If we allow them to throw the ball where they want and we don’t rebound, we will not win. What are we going to do about it?”
Dayton led 50-49 after DaRon Holmes II made a desperation 3-pointer before the shot clock expired. On the next possession, Holmes blocked a shot by VCU, but the ball went right to Jalen DeLoach, who scored a layup to give VCU the lead. The Rams didn’t trail the rest of the way.
2. VCU showed again its the top program in the conference: This was VCU’s seventh A-10 championship game appearance since 2013. No other program has played in the game more than twice in the same span. VCU now has as many titles as anyone in the same stretch.
VCU also has eight NCAA tournament appearances since joining the league. Dayton, by comparison, has four in the same span.
VCU beat each of its A-10 tournament opponents — Davidson, Saint Louis and Dayton — by double digits. It became the third team since 2013 to win the A-10 regular-season title and the tournament in the same season, following Saint Louis (2013) and St. Bonaventure (2021).
“I’m just proud of our guys,” Rhoades said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to experience this before. In coaching, you want to win, but what becomes bigger than the win and the destination is the journey with these guys.”
3. Dayton started to ponder its future: Every player on the Dayton roster has eligibility remaining. They won’t all return. It’s just a question of who leaves. Holmes and Camara both could enter the NBA Draft.
“We’re going to get feedback from our coaches and see what they think,” Holmes said, “because we have coaches who have experience at the next level, and they know what it takes. Right now, we’re not worried too much about everybody leaving. We still might play in the NIT, so we’re just going to figure it out from there.”
STAR OF THE GAME
Holmes scored 28 points on 9-of-12 shooting. 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.
STAT OF THE GAME
Dayton 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.
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