Dayton reeling after sixth loss in eight games

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Dayton struggles on offense vs. George Mason in second half

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

After loss at George Mason, Cunningham says, ‘Tiredness got the best of us’

The Dayton Flyers took much longer than usual to leave the locker room Wednesday at EagleBank Arena. When the players did head for the bus, they left as a group instead of trickling out one by one as they often do. This was fitting because they lost as a group, too.

Some of Dayton's defeats this season can be pinned on a couple of players, or a segment of players — the reserves, for example, who have struggled to produce all season and haven't seen much playing time in recent weeks — but almost everyone played their part in an 85-67 loss at George Mason.

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Maybe this was what everyone should have expected after an 88-84 overtime loss Saturday at Virginia Commonwealth. The climbing minutes played by Dayton's starters in recent weeks could be catching up to them. Fatigue was the first thing forward Josh Cunningham mentioned after the game.

“Tiredness got the best of of us,” he said.

“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.”

SATURDAY’S GAME

Fordham at Dayton, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Ohio, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO