Dayton Flyers forward Josh Cunningham made a noticeable effort late in the game Tuesday against Saint Mary’s to get the ball in the post and back down defenders. It paid off right away in a 3-point play at the 7:59 mark.
Xeyrius Williams hit a 3-pointer on Dayton’s next possession. The Flyers trailed 49-46. An upset victory was still in reach with seven minutes to play. That’s when momentum shifted for good to the Gaels, who outscored the Flyers 14-0 in the next four minutes.
Cunningham got one more shot during the decisive run. Saint Mary’s center Jock Landale blocked it. Cunningham finished with nine points on 3-of-7 shooting. An inability to get Cunningham shots in the paint — or even touches — was one reason Dayton (5-6) lost 69-54 at McKeon Pavilion.
“I feel like we have to do a better job of getting Josh the ball,” Dayton guard Trey Landers said. “He has a big impact, and he’s a big guy for our team. Josh works hard. He deserves it. We have to do a better job as his teammates of recognizing that and getting him the ball.”
Cunningham is shooting 71 percent from the field but has taken 10 shots or more only three times in 11 games. As for his attempt to post up late in the game, Cunningham said he was “just trying to do anything for the team to try to to get us over the hump. It wasn’t enough.”
Off night: Darrell Davis was held scoreless for the first time this season. His scoring average dropped from 18.1 to 16.5. He still leads the team by a slight margin over Cunningham (16.1).
Davis missed all 11 of his field-goal attempts. Cunningham said his advice to Davis would be: “Just keep your head up. It’s one game. We’ve got plenty of more games. We need him. He can’t get down on one game.”
Minutes game: After playing 27 minutes in a 78-70 loss to Penn, freshman forward Matej Svoboda has played a total of five minutes in the last games. He only got on the court in the final minute against Saint Mary's. Freshman center Jordan Pierce entered at the same time, making his second appearance.
Next up: Dayton plays Wagner (7-2) at 3 p.m. Saturday at UD Arena in its final non-conference game. The Flyers then get a week off before opening Atlantic 10 Conference play at Duquesne (8-3) on Dec. 30.
Wagner, located in Staten Island, N.Y., won six in a row before losing 90-84 against Rider on Saturday. In its first nine games, Wagner didn’t beat anyone ranked higher than 210 in the Pomeroy ratings. It has one of the shortest teams in the country, ranking 341st out of 351 teams in average height.