Dayton blows 18-point lead in second half, loses in double overtime

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

UD wastes career high by Zimi Nwokeji

The Dayton Flyers blew an 18-point lead in the second half and lost 91-89 to Rhode Island in double overtime at the Ryan Center in Kingston, R.I., on Tuesday.

“It’s disappointing,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said on his postgame radio show with WHIO’s Larry Hansgen, “but we have to accept it. You have to understand that at some point we have to grow up and understand what’s required every night.”

The game ended when Mustapha Amzil fumbled R.J. Blakney’s in-bounds pass just short of half court with three seconds to play. Rhode Island came up with the ball and dribbled out the clock.

One possession earlier, Dayton had a chance to tie the game with Jalen Crutcher at the line with just under four seconds to play. He made the first but missed the second.

Dayton (11-7, 7-6) has lost two straight Atlantic 10 Conference games for the first time since 2018. It hasn’t lost three straight games in the A-10 since January 2014 when it lost four in a row.

Dayton the season series with Rhode Island (9-12, 6-8), which ended a four-game losing streak with this victory.

“We always consider ourselves a tough out,” Rhode Island coach David Cox told the Providence Journal. “Hopefully we can bottle this up and move forward.”

In a phone call with the Dayton Daily News after the game,Grant said Rhode Island’s transition baskets during its comeback and Dayton’s inability to defend without fouling hurt it in the final minutes.

“Nothing they did tonight was really a surprise,” Grant said. “We didn’t do what we had to do defensively. Turnovers and offensive rebounds continue to be an issue from game one to whatever game we’re on right now. They’ve been there all year. It continues to plague us, and that’s on me as a coach. I have to get guys to understand what’s required, whether it’s seniors or first-year guys. We didn’t get it done tonight. Our pick-and-roll coverage, transition defense, our offensive rebounding, our ability to take care of basketball, it let us down tonight, and they were able to put themselves in position where it became anybody’s game.”

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Dayton dominated the first 10 minutes of the second half, building a 56-38 lead. Rhode Island climbed back in the game with a 19-5 run from the 9:32 to the 4:57 mark. The Rams pulled ahead for the first time with 1:33 to play but did not score in the final 90 seconds.

Dayton trailed 69-68 when Jordy Tshimanga made 1 of 2 free throws to tie the game with six seconds remaining. Rhode Island’s Fatts Russell missed a 3-pointer at the final buzzer.

In the first overtime, Dayton took a 78-77 lead on a basket by Zimi Nwokeji with 19 seconds left. Rhode Island tied the game with 10 seconds to play when Malik Martin made 1 of 2 free throws. Crutcher missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Nwokeji led Dayton with a career-high 29 points. He made 9 of 10 field goals and 9 of 11 free throws.

“I’ve been trying to play with more confidence,” Nwokeji said, “and believe in myself more.”

Crutcher scored 22 points on 7-of-18 shooting. He became the 20th player in UD history to reach the 1,500-point milestone. Ibi Watson scored 16.

Dayton struggled from 3-point range, making 5 of 26 (19 percent), and from the free-throw line (24 of 37, 65 percent). Crutcher, Amzil and Elijah Weaver, three starters, combined to miss all 14 of their attempts.

Rhode Island celebrated Senior Night before the game, and Russell, one of the seniors honored, led the Rams with 20 points.

The game featured the return of Dayton guard Rodney Chatman, who missed the last 11 games after tearing a ligament in his hand on Dec. 30 and undergoing surgery Jan. 6. He entered the game early in the first half. He finished with seven points and four assists in 36 minutes.

“He wanted to play weeks ago,” Grant said. “It was just a matter of going through clearance with medical staff and making sure that he was safe to go out there and not put himself in harm’s way.”

This was Dayton’s first game in a week. After losing 76-67 at home to Virginia Commonwealth on Feb. 9, it had a home game Saturday against postponed because of COVID-19 issues at Saint Joseph’s.

Dayton returns home for its next game, playing Saint Louis (11-3, 4-2) at 7 p.m. Friday. UD will honor seniors Crutcher, Chatman, Tshimanga, Watson and Camron Greer before the game.

Saint Louis beat La Salle 78-57 on Tuesday and has won four straight games since an 0-2 start in the A-10. Dayton won the first matchup 76-71 on Jan. 26.

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Dayton led 34-28 at halftime despite making 1 of 13 3-pointers. Rhode Island wasn’t much better, making 2 of 11.

Dayton built a 20-12 lead with an 8-0 run featuring four straight points by Nwokeji and then four from Crutcher. Rhode Island answered with an 11-2 run to take a 23-22 lead. Then it was Dayton’s turn. It regained the advantage with a 12-1 run, building its biggest lead of the half, 34-24, on an alley-oop pass from Watson to Nwokeji with 1:46 to play.

Rhode Island cut into the lead with the last four points of the half.

Nwokeji, who had not scored more than 10 points in a game this season, scored 12 points in the half. Crutcher had eight.

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