A Dayton Flyers season that has had a little bit of everything has lacked a buzzer-beater.
Trey Landers almost provided the first Friday. After Jalen Crutcher missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds, Landers rushed the basket, jumped and tipped the rebound back toward the rim. It rolled across the rim and fell off to the side as the buzzer sounded, sending Dayton and Rhode Island to overtime at UD Arena. At that moment, most fans in the stands and the Flyers themselves could only laugh and smile at Dayton’s bad luck.
“It was right there,” Dayton forward Ryan Mikesell said. “I’ve seen him make that how many times. It’s just the basketball gods. It wasn’t meant to be, I guess.”
Everyone expecting a sellout crowd of 13,147 to carry Dayton to victory in overtime hasn’t been paying close attention this season. For whatever reason, Dayton has played better on the road in Atlantic 10 Conference play than at home, and it proved true again as the Rams outscored the Flyers 4-0 in the last 2:10 to win 72-70.
Dayton has lost to George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth and Rhode Island at UD Arena by a combined seven points. All the games were decided in the final minute.
This time, Dayton lost at home to a team it beat 77-48 on the road three weeks earlier — an inexplicable loss for a team that seemed to be peaking as March began.
“Disappointed in our performance tonight,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “We needed to be better. I needed to do a better job of preparing our guys and understanding a couple weeks ago we had a nice win on the road against Rhode Island and they were going to come back today with some fight and some toughness like a team that has been competing for championships for the last couple years. We didn’t handle the situation mentally and physically the way we needed to today. That’s my fault as a coach. I’ve got to make sure our guys are prepared. I didn’t feel like we got the performance and the focus we needed today. The results showed that. Give Rhode Island credit.”
Here are four reasons Dayton lost to Rhode Island:
1. Too many turnovers: Dayton committed 19 turnovers, and Rhode Island had 12. The most costly turnovers for the Flyers came in the second overtime.
With the game tied at 70-70, Landers dribbled into traffic and lost the ball at the 1:46 mark. After Rhode Island’s Dana Tate rebounded a miss and scored what would turn out to be the game-winning basket at the 1:16 mark, Dayton’s Obi Toppin had the ball stripped as he drove through the paint to the basket.
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“Turning over the ball isn’t fun at all,” Toppin said. “When I turn over the ball in that type of situation, it brings me down, but I’ve just got to worry about the next play. I try to disregard it, but it hurt us.”
2. Missed opportunities: Dayton had three chances in the final 30 seconds to tie the game or take the lead. Jordan Davis missed a 3-pointer from the corner with 28 seconds left. Crutcher missed a layup with seven seconds to play. Landers missed a jump shot at the final buzzer.
Rhode Island missed the front end of two 1-and-1 opportunities in the final 21 seconds to keep Dayton’s hopes alive, but the Flyers couldn’t capitalize.
3. Struggling starters: Toppin scored 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting, led Dayton’s comeback from a 10-point deficit in the second half and had numerous key baskets down the stretch, including the last basket of the second half. That score tied the game at 63-63 with 40 seconds remaining. Mikesell had 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
Aside from those two players, Dayton didn’t get enough from its other starters. Josh Cunningham scored four points on 1-of-3 shooting. Crutcher made 3 of 10 shots and missed all four of his 3-point attempts, finishing with eight points. He had six assists but also six turnovers. Davis had five points on 1-of-4 shooting.
Dayton (19-10, 11-5) fell into third place, a half game behind Davidson (20-8, 11-4) and a half game ahead of George Mason (12-12, 10-5) and St. Bonaventure (14-14, 10-5). The Flyers play at home against La Salle (9-18, 7-8) at 7 p.m. Wednesday and then close the regular season at 7 p.m. Saturday against Duquesne (18-10, 9-6).
“We’ve got to get past this one,” Grant said. “Right now it hurts. It stings. You’ve got to be able to take care of your home court, and we’ve struggled to do that this year. We’ve struggled to have the focus and understand we can’t take anything for granted at any point. We’re not that team. We’ve made it harder than it needs to be, for whatever reason.”
4. Unstoppable Rams: Rhode Island guard Fatts Russell scored zero points in the first game against Dayton. This time, he made 9 of 20 shots and scored 23 points. He had 14 points in the first half as the Rams built a 38-31 halftime lead.
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Forward Cyril Langevine, a key player for the senior-dominated team that won the A-10 regular-season title last season, scored a season-high 26 points on 12-of-14 shooting.
“He’s a beast,” Mikesell said. “I think he averages 14 and 10. He might be the only guy in the A-10 to average a double-double. He does it all down there. He’s a big guy. He can finish with both hands. He’s really physical. He plays super hard.”