Dayton back on court after focusing on exams

Flyers play Georgia State at 7 p.m. Saturday

Matej Svoboda admitted the mood of the Dayton Flyers isn't the best. That's understandable. Dayton doesn't get a chance to move past a 78-70 loss to Penn until 7 p.m. Saturday when it plays Georgia State at UD Arena.

Seven days is a long time to sit on the wrong side of .500 for this program. Until Dec. 3, when they fell to 3-4 with a 61-59 loss at Mississippi State, the Flyers had not spent one day with a losing record in almost 12 years.

“Of course, we’re losing games,” said Svoboda, a freshman forward from the Czech Republic, on Thursday. “It’s very hard, especially for a team like Dayton. We’re 4-5, the worst start in Dayton history.”

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Well, it’s not quite that bad, but Svoboda could be excused for thinking so. He committed to a program in the midst of one of the great eras in school history. Dayton didn’t lose its first game last season until Jan. 11. Two years ago, it won 21 games before it lost its fourth. This is Dayton’s first 4-5 start since 1998-99.

Fans jumping off the bandwagon might want to think about how much the loss of Xeyrius Williams has hurt this team and how much his return could help. Dayton was 2-2 with him in the lineup. It has lost three of five games with him sidelined by a back injury.

Minutes have climbed for the newcomers since the Williams injury. Svoboda averaged 10.7 minutes in the first four games and has played 22.2 minutes per game in the last five. Jordan Davis was playing 18.3 minutes per game with Williams in the lineup and has averaged 26.0 with Williams out of action.

Williams could return to action against Georgia State (7-3). He was cleared for full contact practices earlier this week.

“He’s been able to be in practice the last couple of days,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said Thursday. “Barring any setbacks, we hope to have him available this weekend.”

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Williams averaged 8.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 34.2 minutes in the first four games. He hasn’t played since a 75-67 loss to Old Dominion in the fifth-place game at the Charleston Classic on Nov. 19.

Back spasms first kept Williams from playing against Akron, and in an interview last week, Williams said he has been battling back pain for six years. Williams was cleared for non-contact practices in the days leading up to the Penn game. Grant hopes he remains healthy enough to play Saturday.

“I dont want to get ahead of myself,” Grant said, “because we have some hoops to jump through before we can get to that point, but certainly it’s been good to have him back for the last couple of days in practice. We’ll see how he progresses.”

The Flyers turned the focus to academics after the loss to Penn. Grant gave the players Sunday, Monday and Tuesday off to prepare for exams.

Dayton now enters a busy stretch on the court. The Flyers will bus to Cincinnati after the game Saturday and catch a flight to the west coast Sunday morning for a Tuesday game at Saint Mary’s in Moraga, Calif., which is just east of Oakland.

“We were ready to get back on the court (Tuesday and Wednesday),” Grant said. “It’s been mostly about us, understanding what we have to do to get better as a team. You look back on last Saturday against Penn, and I thought our energy, effort and accountability was lacking. Those are the things we’ve tried to address.”


Georgia State at Dayton, 7 p.m., Spectrum Sports, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO

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