Dayton knocks off A-10 champs in regular-season finale

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Flyers finish regular season with 13-8 record and will play in A-10 tournament on Thursday

The Dayton Flyers still own Olean, N.Y.

They haven’t lost to St. Bonaventure in western New York since 2012, and with all signs pointing to a five-game winning streak at the Reilly Center ending Monday, Dayton pulled off a stunning victory, beating the Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season champions 55-52 in the final game of the regular season.

Dayton (13-8, 9-7) bounced back from one of its worst performances, a 97-84 loss at Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday, with one of its most impressive victories of the season.

“It feels good,” said Dayton guard Ibi Watson, who led the team with 14 points. “We’re just trying to build momentum going into the postseason. After losing our last game, we showed that we’re a bounce-back team.”

Dayton’s seed in the A-10 tournament will depend on what happens in the final two A-10 games Monday night: Saint Joseph’s at Richmond; and Massachusetts at Saint Louis. Dayton will be seeded no worse than No. 8 and could climb as high as No. 6 and will play in the second round Thursday.

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The Bonnies (13-4, 11-4) had won three games in a row and clinched the regular-season championship with their most lopsided A-10 victory ever in their last game: 88-41 over George Washington. This was also St. Bonaventure’s first loss at home. It was 8-0. Even though it had clinched the title, it was still playing to improve its NCAA tournament resume and secure an at-large bid.

Dayton trailed 26-18 late in the first half and then began a 19-3 run over the next eight-plus minutes. The Flyers led the rest of the way, though the Bonnies cut UD’s lead to two points twice in the last four minutes.

Watson made 1 of 2 free throws with 1:05 to play to give Dayton a 55-52 lead. Jalen Adaway, who led the Bonnies with 17 points, missed two 3-pointers in the final 39 seconds, the last one at the buzzer, as Dayton escaped with its sixth straight victory in Olean.

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Dayton overcame 21 turnovers, one short of a season high, by shooting 45.5 percent (20 of 44) from the field and making 6 of 12 3-pointers. It held the Bonnies to 30 percent shooting (18 of 60), their worst performance of the season.

“We put some time in, understanding that we needed to defend well tonight,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “The guys responded. They did a really good job of focusing on our scouting report and taking some things away. They’re a really good team. Obviously, they’re A-10 champs for a reason. They do a lot of things really well, so we wanted to make it difficult for them. And I thought I guys did that.”

Mustapha Amzil and R.J. Blakney each scored nine points. All nine players who saw the court for Dayton scored. Dayton’s bench outscored St. Bonaventure’s bench 17-8.

“I thought we got really good efforts across the board tonight,” Grant said. “Everybody that played in the game had an impact on the game tonight.”

Dayton’s Jalen Crutcher was held to six points and battled foul trouble most of the game. He fouled out with 3:51 to play. He played 22 minutes, the lowest total in an A-10 game in his career.

NOTES: Blakney made his first career start, and center Jordy Tshimanga returned to the starting lineup after not playing against Saint Joseph’s because of a coach’s decision. It’s the fourth straight game Dayton has changed the starting lineup. Ten players have made at least one start this season.

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