Dayton Flyers guard Darrell Davis sees the calendar. He knows his days in college basketball are numbered.
“It’s going really fast,” said Davis, the lone senior scholarship player on the roster. “I want to enjoy myself and go out with a bang my senior year.”
That’s becoming more difficult to do for Davis, the rest of the Flyers and everyone who follows them. The latest result, a 75-65 defeat Saturday at Saint Louis, adds to the narrative that has been as consistent as the team has been inconsistent.
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Dayton (10-11, 4-5) can beat good teams. It can also lose to mediocre and poor teams. Winning two games in a row earlier this month was a monumental accomplishment for this team. Winning three in a row has so far proved impossible.
Losing at Chaifetz Arena hurt Davis as much as any loss. He had never lost there — or lost to the Billikens period. He was there in 2015 when the Flyers scored 19 points in the first half and still manged to win 51-44. A year later, he played in an even uglier game. Dayton scored 14 points in the first half and found a way to beat Saint Louis 52-49 in overtime.
Last season, the Flyers enjoyed an easier victory, routing the Billikens 85-63 and posing for photos on the bench in the final minute as the senior class broke the school record for victories.
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Those games seemed long ago Saturday when Davis and the Flyers left the court. The result shouldn’t have surprised anyone — Dayton is 2-7 outside UD Arena — and yet losing is never easy, especially for Davis. He hangs onto a hope of this team making something of this season, a hope shared by a diminishing number of people outside the locker room.
“I feel like there’s a spark we can make as a team,” Davis said. “It’s all about dedicating yourself to basketball, the scouting report, the the coaches, the players. If we do that, we can probably make a run and enter our name in the NCAA tournament.”
Dayton starts the second half of the Atlantic 10 schedule at 2 p.m. Saturday at Massachusetts (10-12, 3-6). The Flyers are tied for seventh place with Saint Louis (11-11, 4-5).
“With nine games left, we feel there’s a lot of season left,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “Our goal again is to try to get one of those top four seeds heading into the (A-10) tournament. We’ve got a week here to figure things out and maybe do things a little differently. We’re on the road again Saturday. We’re going to have to be able to understand what it takes to win on the road. That’s been a problem for us all year. We’ve got to develop a little more toughness.”
The break will give Grant and his staff a chance to evaluate their approach when it comes to foul trouble. He said they might have to rethink their strategy of benching players with two fouls in the first half and keeping them in the game longer.
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Josh Cunningham and Trey Landers combined to play 15 minutes in the first half Saturday because of foul issues. Their absence hurt. There was a large drop-off in performance when John Crosby replaced Landers at the 10:53 mark and when Kostas Antetokounmpo replaced Cunningham at the 8:31 mark.
The Billikens rallied from a 17-7 deficit to take a 36-30 halftime lead. Numerous Dayton fans complained on Twitter after the game about Grant not calling a timeout during that run by the Billikens or throughout the game.
“I’ll go back and look at it,” Grant said. “Maybe we should have. Maybe they’re right.”