The Dayton Flyers suffered their fifth loss in the last six games Sunday, falling 72-67 to Tulsa in the Basketball Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase at Mohegan Sun Arena.
This one had to feel similar to a number of the previous losses. Dayton (5-5) came out slow, trailing 27-13 in the first half. It rallied to tie the game 30-30 at halftime. Then it surged ahead by as many as four points early in the second half before fading late. It followed a similar script in losses to Oklahoma and Auburn.
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Tulsa (9-3) took control by scoring on eight straight possessions during the crucial stretch starting at the 8:19 mark. It shot 66.7 percent from the field in the second half.
"We've got to be able to get stops," Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. "They did a good job in the second half of working the ball inside. Give them credit. Every big shot when we switched up our defense, they made us pay for it. They got some special situations in terms of underneath out of bounds. They made us pay every time. They're a good team. They're 9-3 for a reason. They've had a good schedule. They have some veterans. They played like it tonight. No excuses for us."
Josh Cunningham led the Flyers with 15 points, and Jalen Crutcher scored 14.
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A 3-pointer by Crutcher with 50 seconds to play cut Tulsa's lead to 68-65. On Dayton's next possession, Ryan Mikesell missed what would have been the game-tying 3-pointer from the corner.
Dayton has three non-conference games remaining, all at UD Arena, to build momentum for Atlantic 10 Conference play. However, any hope of winning enough non-conference games to put itself in contention for an at-large NCAA tournament berth — if there was any left before this game — has vanished.
Dayton solved two of its problems in this game, committing five turnovers after having 23 in the previous game against No. 8 Auburn and making 14 of 17 free throws.
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The slow start, if it didn't doom Dayton, didn't help. The Flyers trailed 27-13 and ended the half on a 17-3 run.
"We looked like a team out of rhythm for a good part of the first half," Grant said. "We fixed that offensively and were able to get stops and get out in transition. But in the second half, we just didn't get enough stops or make enough shots."
NOTES: Rhode Island (5-3) beat West Virginia 83-70 in the first game Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena. The game featured 56 fouls — each team committed 28 — and 70 free throws. … The Flyers return to action at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Western Michigan (5-5) at UD Arena. The Broncos lost 70-62 at No. 5 Michigan on Saturday.
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