Dwayne Cohill leaned over and put his hands on his knees after committing a turnover with four seconds to play. Steps away on Tom Blackburn Court, Trey Landers had a similar reaction, putting his hands on his heads with his elbows pointed out — a gesture known throughout the sports world as “Surrender Cobra.”
The Dayton Flyers never surrendered in their 65-58 loss to No. 25 Mississippi State on Friday at UD Arena and were in position to win the game until the final six minutes when they were outscored 21-7, but hanging tough with a ranked team didn’t make anyone inside or outside the locker room feel better.
» TWENTY PHOTOS: Best shots from Friday’s action
That was the theme after losses to Virginia and Oklahoma in the Battle 4 Atlantis last week. This was different because the Flyers were at home. They expect to win at UD Arena no matter the opponent, especially when a sellout crowd of 13,174 is watching.
“Anytime you’ve got a top-25 team coming in, you want to win that game,” said redshirt junior forward Ryan Mikesell, who led the Flyers with 15 points. “This is a tough one. We’ve got a young team. We’ll grow from it. We’ve really got to clean up the last four minutes. The last couple games, we’ve really struggled there. We’ve got to close out games better.”
Here are five takeaways from Dayton’s third straight loss:
1. Late fade: This was the third straight game the Flyers (4-3) had a chance in the final minutes but couldn’t close the game with key stops or baskets.
Virginia beat Dayton 66-59 thanks in part to a 3-pointer by De’Andre Hunter with 55 seconds to play when the Flyers trailed by four. Oklahoma outscored Dayton 15-6 in the last 4:48 in a 65-54 victory.
» FOLLOW THE FLYERS: All the links you need for the season in one place
This time, after Dayton took a 51-44 lead at the 6:19 mark on a basket by Trey Landers, the Flyers were outscored 12-2 in the next four-plus minutes. The Bulldogs (6-1) made five of their last six shots.
“I think you’ve got to give Mississippi State credit,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “Over the course of a 40-minute game, their stamina, their will won out. I thought their energy in the second half really told the story of the game. They were the more aggressive team to start the half, and they finished strong. I think they scored on seven straight possessions down the stretch to close the game out. I’m proud of the guys in terms of the effort we gave as a team. We just have to figure out how to sustain it and how to be able to overcome the peaks and valleys, the adversity you go through every game.”
2. Injury report: Junior guard Jhery Matos missed the game with a toe injury. It was described as turf toe, or a sprain. He suffered the injury late in the game against Oklahoma on Nov. 23 in the Bahamas. He sat on the bench with his left foot in a protective boot.
“We missed him,” Grant said. “We have a limited roster as it is. He would have been a really valuable part. But injuries are a part of the game. We understand that. I feel bad for Jhery that he has to go through this uncertainty right now. He’s out indefinitely. We should know more next week in terms of where he’ll be at.”
3. Freshman debuts: With Matos sidelined, Dayton would have had seven available players if it had stuck to its plan of redshirting freshman forward Frankie Policelli. Grant had said earlier in the season that plan could change if other players were injured, and that’s why Policelli entered the game in the first half Friday.
One appearance means Policelli won’t redshirt. He missed his only shot attempt but assisted Mikesell for a dunk on his second possession. Grant hoped to play him more minutes in this game and plans to get him more playing time in the games ahead.
“We talked to him earlier in the week and told him he needs to be prepared just in case an opportunity presented itself,” Grant said. “He’s done a good job. I think going forward we’ve got to be able to get him more opportunity to get comfortable, to get his feet under him. There are things he does that can help our team moving forward.”
4. Overcoming illness: Dayton redshirt senior forward Josh Cunningham had 11 points and six rebounds in 25 minutes. He started the game on the bench. Obi Toppin, who had eight points and five rebounds, started in Cunningham’s place.
Dayton was fortunate Cunningham was able to play at all.
“He had food poisoning,” Grant said. “He didn’t practice the last three days. Today was the first day he was on the court. He was pretty out of it the last two days and started feeling a little bit better yesterday.”
5. Missed chances: Dayton continues to struggle from 3-point range. It made 7 of 23 (30.4 percent) against Mississippi State. Jalen Crutcher made 3 of 6 and scored 11 points.
Mikesell made 3 of 8. He made two in a three-minute span early in the second half. He also missed what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer with 56 seconds to play.
“That was tough,” Mikesell said. “I got a really good look. I felt really confident. As soon as it left my hands, I thought it was good. It was on line. It was one of those things. Not every shot that feels good goes in.”
COVERAGE NOTES: Watch Mike Hartsock’s weekly series “Flyer Nation” for a special look behind the court. It’s available on our WHIO app for your TV streaming player: whio.com/watch.
• Hear coverage of Dayton games all season on AM 1290 and News 95.7 WHIO. You can listen online here: whio.com/WHIORadio.