Archdeacon: Troubling loss sends Flyer fans home early

Dayton's DaRon Holmes II, Zimi Nwokeji, Kaleb Washington and Richard Amaefule watch the action during a game against Lipscomb ​on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staf
Caption
Dayton's DaRon Holmes II, Zimi Nwokeji, Kaleb Washington and Richard Amaefule watch the action during a game against Lipscomb ​on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staf

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Back-to-back losses leaves Dayton looking for answers.

What a difference two weeks makes.

On Nov. 4, five days before the start of this basketball season, the University of Dayton announced its entire home basketball season – all 17 games – had sold out. It was the first time that ever had happened.

The COVID pandemic had kept fans from gathering at UD Arena last year, so the memory they held onto was that glorious finale of the 29-2 season on Blackburn Court in March of 2020.

This year fans couldn’t wait to get back into their hoops home and experience some of that again.

But Wednesday night, just eight days into the new season, Flyers fans couldn’t wait to get out of UD Arena. They had seen enough.

ExploreAnthony Grant: 'I want to take the blame on this'

With 7:45 left in a rout by Lipscomb – yes, that’s right, a total KO by the 230th-ranked team in the country – UD fans began heading for the exit. The Flyers already were down by 18 and it was about to get worse.

With 3:48 left – and UD soon to be down by 23 – much of the home crowd was pouring out the doors.

When the embarrassment ended – when UD had lost 78-59 – there were large swaths of empty seats in the lower arena and all you heard were the two dozen purple and white clad Lipscomb fans who were standing behind the visitors’ bench, cheering and celebrating as the end-of-the-bench Bison players completed the mop up duty on the court.

The Lipscomb backers were saying the same thing Justin Faison of UMass Lowell had said four days earlier when he and his team – ranked 265 in Division I – had pushed UD around for a 10-point victory.

“Man, I love this arena!” the beaming Faison said outside the visitors’ dressing quarters.

But while that may have been hard to hear, Wednesday night was worse to watch.

It was the worst home loss in a decade, going back to an 84-55 drubbing by visiting Buffalo on Nov. 30, 2011.

The Flyers never led against Lipscomb. Thy were outshot, outrebounded, outplayed and outcoached.

After the game Anthony Grant said he took the blame for this loss.

The Flyers head coach said he didn’t have his young team ready: “I’ve got to figure out as a coach how I can help this team.”

Lipscomb’s coach, Lennie Acuff, said afterward that he had no doubt that will happen:

“It was a tough night for them, but there’s nobody who respects Anthony Grant more than me. Anthony Grant is a great basketball coach and a better person and they’ll get it right. They’re playing eight freshmen in the rotation.

“This is my 32nd year as a coach and when the ball goes in, everything looks good. And when it doesn’t go in, it’s a miserable game. He will get it right.

“They just need to keep encouraging these kids because they’re young and talented.”

ExplorePHOTOS: Dayton vs. Lipscomb

On the flip side some of the always-anonymous flame throwers on the Flyers fan web site were trying ignite a “Fire AG” campaign.

Suddenly, March of 2020 – when Grant was named the National Coach of the Year – seemed so far away.

That team lost two games all season and those defeats were both in overtime to formidable opponents.

This team has lost two of its first three games to opponents who are paid to come here to be schedule padders.

The 1-2 start is the worst by a UD team in 17 seasons.

Unless things change quickly, it could – with three games against better talent looming in a Thanksgiving tournament in Florida – look real ugly by the end of the month.

Acuff pinpointed the problem: The Flyers are young and inexperienced.

They look unsure of themselves out on the court. They’re playing overly cautious on offense and just as timidly on defense.

No one has stepped up to be a leader on the court and my bet would be it’s the same in the locker room.

The two teams that hampered UD in the past week both had strong players the night they dominated the Flyers.

Faison had 21 points on the strength of five three pointers, including three in a row down the stretch, that quieted the crowd and left the Flyers reeling.

Wednesday night Lipscomb got an even more dominant performance from Ahsan Asadullah, a 6-foot-9, 275-pound force inside, who also scored 21 on the Flyers, while adding eight rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots.

Faison and Asadullah have one thing in common. Both are veteran players.

Asadullah is a fourth-year player who already has scored 1,322 career points, grabbed 750 rebounds and won All-ASUN Conference honors his first three seasons at the Nashville school.

Faison is a fifth-year player. He spent his first four seasons at Elizabeth City State, an HBCU in North Carolina and now is a grad student at UMass Lowell.

Of course, Dayton also has a way of making these guys look like supermen.

Wednesday night Lowell played its next game after UD and Faison scored six points – missing six of eight shots – in a blowout loss to Oklahoma State.

After Wednesday’s game, it was UD freshman Malachi Smith who met with the press and he provided some out-of-the-mouth-of-babes honesty:

“There are no positives to dwell on the last two games.”

When pressed, he said he thought the problem began with the Flyers defense: “We’ve got to play harder. Tougher. We’ve all got to be dogs.”

The latter is a compliment, as in showing pit bull tenacity.

Caption
Dayton's Malachi Smith dribbles against Lipscomb on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Dayton's Malachi Smith dribbles against Lipscomb on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
Caption
Dayton's Malachi Smith dribbles against Lipscomb on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

On this night, he and Moulaye Sissoko were the only two players who showed it for any length of time.

The younger brother of former UD standout Scoochie Smith, Malachi tried to give the Flyers a pulse with his quickness and a willingness to attack the basket. He finished tied for a team-high 11 points – Toumani Camara and Elijah Weaver also had 11 – and added four assists and two steals.

The 6-foot-9 Sissoko came off the bench – after starter DaRon Holmes II and Mustapha Amzil, both 6-foot-10, faltered against Asadullah – and gave UD its only muscle and grit inside. He finished with a team-high eight rebounds and had three points. He might have had more ‚but UD players can’t figure out or refuse to dump the ball inside.

Afterward Grant talked about his team’s inexperience and how – after three games – he sees the players don’t know what they must do personally to “put the team first” and do what they need to “help the team be successful.”

“They don’t know what they don’t know…It’s on me as a coach. I’ve got to grow these guys.”

“This team is full of potential, but potential can be a dirty word because it means you haven’t done it. At some point (our) guys have to make that change from a bunch of guys with potential to being guys that understand what it takes to win in college basketball.”

Caption
Dayton's Moulaye Sissoko dunks against Lipscomb on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Dayton's Moulaye Sissoko dunks against Lipscomb on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
Caption
Dayton's Moulaye Sissoko dunks against Lipscomb on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

And Grant was right. That task falls on him.

After UD lost to Buffalo in 2011 – which they followed up with a 17-point loss to Murray State – the team was at crossroads and first-year coach Archie Miller talked about it at season’s end:

“That one (the loss to Buffalo) will live in infamy. I thought it was hard for our group to have to live that one down in our own building. I can tell you it can rock your confidence for a long time.”

This current team’s confidence is rocked.

“We’re down on ourselves,” Smith admitted. “It’s not a good feeling.”

That Flyers team from a decade past righted itself enough to finish 23-10 and make the NIT.

I don’t see anything that glorious happening, but it’s got to get better than Wednesday night with the crowd marching out way before game’s end, the home team rudderless and floundering on the court, and the opponents – in one form or another – letting everyone know just how much the love playing in UD Arena.

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