Archdeacon: Another tough loss has Flyers seeking an identity

Dayton coaches, including Anthony Grant, right, react in the final seconds of a loss to Austin Peay on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
Caption
Dayton coaches, including Anthony Grant, right, react in the final seconds of a loss to Austin Peay on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

It was day of changing your identity, or at least trying to, at UD Arena Saturday.

With Dayton Flyers coach Anthony Grant – and I’m not saying he’s suddenly trying to go in disguise – but he looks different that he did in that 29-2 season two years ago.

Gone are the fancily-tailored suits. Replaced by a pullover and slacks.

And three weeks ago he started a beard, though the more it grows, the whiter it’s looking.

Asked if that’s because of the Flyers’ three straight home losses against unheralded mid-majors, including Saturday’s final minutes collapse against Austin Peay for a numbing 87-81 defeat, he just shook his head.

Understandably, he wasn’t into joking around as his team reels, but he did make a small effort:

“Man, right now everything’s going white.”

White, as when your TV picture suddenly blinks out, or the color drains from your face before you faint, or the paint job on your house fades in the unrelenting sun.

They’re all related to loss. And UD is doing that in shocking fashion right now.

At 1-3, this is the Flyers worst start to a season in 17 years. Each loss has been a little different, especially the last two.

Wednesday night they were routed by Lipscomb. That game they never led.

Saturday, Dayton held the lead for much of the first half and almost the entire second half.

The Flyers led by eight at halftime and were up by 12 early in the second half. They still led 77-71 with 4:29 left.

And then the bottom fell out.

They gave up a 12-0 run and eventually were outscored 16-4 in that final 4:29.

Austin Peay celebrated the outcome as if it had won a tournament game. For them, this was a new identity, as well.

In four previous meetings with UD, Austin Peay had never won, losing by an average of 16.5 points.

Caption
Dayton players react in the final seconds of a loss to Austin Peay on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Dayton players react in the final seconds of a loss to Austin Peay on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
Caption
Dayton players react in the final seconds of a loss to Austin Peay on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

It had been 11 years since the Governors had beaten an A-10 team – they topped St. Louis in 2010 – and they came into the Arena on Saturday riding a seven-game losing streak on the road.

That all changed in stunning fashion and once again UD Arena belonged to somebody else at game’s end. Once again, much of the sold-out crowd left early.

“The crowd was loud early on, but at the end you couldn’t hear them at all…Not one bit,” Elijah Hutchins-Everett, the Governors’ 6-foot-11 freshman center said with a smile after finishing with 25 points and 14 rebounds.

Once again an opposing player took over the game against the Flyers.

Wednesday night it was Lipscomb’s Ahsan Asadullah, who scored 21 points and had eight rebounds. And last Saturday – in a 59-58 loss to UMass Lowell – it was Justin Faison who had 21 points, including three straight three pointers down the stretch.

Early on Saturday the young UD team played pretty well thanks to its game-long, full court, trapping defense that rattled the Governors.

And that brings us to the new identity a couple of UD players were talking about after this game.

“I think that could be our identity,” said UD’s Toumani Camara, who finished with a team-high 14 points. “We’re good. We have length and speed and everybody can play defense.”

The latter claim is debatable, but the aggressive pressure was a nice switch from the timidity of the previous games.

“I felt like we played a totally different style of basketball,” said guard Koby Brea who came off the bench and scored 13 points. “It was a huge learning experience for us. We only had a couple of days to prepare for this game.

“Our new identity is something that is going to be very striking to a lot of people.”

Maybe so, but once again poor shooting – 3 for 21 from three point range – costly turnovers and missed late-game assignments killed the Flyers.

There were a couple of silver linings Saturday. Moulaye Sissoko came off the bench to provide some inside muscle as he notched a career-high 12 points. And freshman Lynn Greer III also came in and provided a spark with eight points.

But that wasn’t enough,

“The only way is up for us,” Brea said afterward.

But that will be a tough task. The Flyers now head to a three-day tournament in Orlando over Thanksgiving and the competition gets stiffer.

UD opens against the Miami Hurricanes on Thursday and Friday it will play either Kansas or North Texas.

Brea thought it would be good for his young team to go on the road:

“We still haven’t had any road games. It will be good to be the underdog and the guys everybody boos.”

Then again, if things keeping going like they are now, the Flyers won’t have to go on the road to get booed.

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