“Do you think it was a carryover from Saturday, a lot of minutes piling up,” Cunningham was asked.
“Yeah, maybe,” Cunningham said. “That could be an issue.”
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If the wear and tear of a long season caused Dayton (11-14, 5-8) to play its worst game of the season, at least it will have fresher legs Saturday when it plays Fordham (9-16, 4-9) at UD Arena. Jordan Davis sat out the last 9:23. Cunningham watched the last 7:46 from the bench. The other starters — Trey Landers, Darrell Davis and Jalen Crutcher — didn’t play in the last 5:22.
By that point, Dayton trailed 73-52. Coach Anthony Grant had seen enough. He played walk-on guard Jack Westerfield for the last 9:23. He did the same thing in an 81-65 loss Jan. 17 at St. Joseph's.
That was the last time Dayton had not only played poorly but lacked focus and energy. The Flyers at least had been competitive in every game since, even if they were losing most of the time. They have now lost six of their last eight games. It’s their worst eight-game stretch since the 2007-08 season when they lost six of eight in January and February.
“We didn’t play well enough,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “I didn’t coach well enough. We don’t have the luxury as a team (of winning) if we don’t show up with our best. My job is to make sure we were prepared today, and for whatever reason we we weren’t prepared.”
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This loss left Dayton (11-14, 5-8) as close to last place, where four teams are tied at 5-9, as to seventh place, where three teams are tied at 6-7. The Flyers will have to win their last five games just to finish the regular season with a winning record. Barring an unexpected turnaround or a deep run in the A-10 tournament, Dayton is almost assured of its first losing season since 2006 when it finished 14-17.
All the players can do is move ahead with whatever optimism they have left.
” We’re fine,” Cunningham said. “There’s plenty of games left. It’s basketball. Things happen.”
Fordham at Dayton, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Ohio, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO