Dayton’s Grant: ‘We just didn’t have enough guys that competed’

Dayton’s Jalen Crutcher drives to the basket against La Salle on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, at Tom Gola Arena in Philadelphia. David Jablonski/Staff

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Dayton’s Jalen Crutcher drives to the basket against La Salle on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, at Tom Gola Arena in Philadelphia. David Jablonski/Staff

Flyers tied for ninth with three teams with one game left

The Dayton Flyers sprinted into the March the last four seasons, ready to face the madness. They limp into the month in Anthony Grant’s first season on the heels of two of the worst back-to-back performances in recent memory.

An 81-56 loss at Rhode Island on Friday was at least explainable. The Rams are just the better team — not to mention the outright Atlantic 10 champions — even if they did lose their next game Tuesday at home to St. Joseph’s by 30.

However, a a 71-53 loss Wednesday at Tom Gola Arena to La Salle, a team playing without its second-leading scorer, Pookie Powell, is hard to explain and hard to excuse. It says a lot that Grant singled out only two players in his post-game interview.

“I’m proud of Trey (Landers),” Grant said. “I thought Trey brought it. It wasn’t one of our finest hours. It was easy to lay down. I thought Trey, especially in the second half, really battled and competed on both ends of the floor. He had a tough job, obviously with B.J. Johnson. I thought Jack Westerfield came in and played with energy. I thought he did a good job in terms of being where he needed to be from a defensive standpoint.”

The other seven Flyers to appear in the game weren’t mentioned, but for long stretches in the second half, as La Salle pushed its lead to as many as 25 points, starters Jalen Crutcher, Jordan Davis and Darrell Davis watched from the bench. Grant played the walk-on Westerfield and backup guard John Crosby major minutes in the second half.

“The theme was the same for 40 minutes,” Grant said. “I thought Trey competed. We just didn’t have enough guys that competed at the level we need guys to compete.”

Dayton (13-16, 7-10) is tied for ninth place with Duquesne, George Washington and La Salle with one game to play. The Flyers will have to beat George Washington at UD Arena on Saturday and hope either La Salle or Duquesne lose, or they will get one of the bottom four seeds in the A-10 tournament.

Grant said he tried to warn his players of the challenge they had Wednesday. He told WHIO’s Larry Hansgen after the game he saw this coming.

“We’ve talked about it all year,” he said. “But when you deal with young people, the message maybe doesn’t get through. I thought tonight we didn’t compete at the level my expectation for our program is to compete, so we have to address that.”

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