Dayton sees Florida tournament as a ‘new beginning’ after 1-3 start

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Anthony Grant interview: Nov. 22, 2021

Flyers will be the only team in the ESPN Events Invitational with a losing record

The Sunshine State will offer the Dayton Flyers, a team hounded by dark clouds so far in November, better weather — there will be a high of 74 on Thursday in Orlando, Fla., and a high of 45 in Dayton — and also a fresh start this week.

“We can see it as a new beginning,” Dayton forward Toumani Camara said. “We can try to get better. That’s what we do every day in practice.”

Losses to UMass Lowell, Lipscomb and Austin Peay spoiled the optimism surrounding the new season. One victory, in the short term at least, would do wonders for the team. It’s just going to be a hard thing to find at the ESPN Events Invitational for a team that has lost to three teams ranked between No. 189 and No. 294 in the Ken Pomeroy ratings.

Dayton, which will fly to Florida on Tuesday, will be the only team in the eight-team field with a losing record. The other seven teams have a combined record of 23-3.

Dayton will play the No. 84 Miami Hurricanes (3-1) at noon Thursday in the first round at the HP Fieldhouse at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla. The next opponent on Friday will be No. 2 Kansas (3-0) or No. 116 North Texas (2-1). The third opponent on Sunday will be No. 14 Alabama (4-0), No. 54 Drake (3-0), No. 61 Belmont (3-1) or No. 149 Iona (5-0).

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Dayton (1-3) ranked 84th in those same ratings when the season began Nov. 9 but dropped to No. 130, their lowest point since the 2017-18 season, because of the three-game losing streak.

The Flyers were outscored 14-3 in the final four minutes in an 87-81 loss to Austin Peay on Saturday. In the previous game, they were dominated for most of the game in a 78-59 loss to Lipscomb. The troubles started in the second game of the season with a 59-58 loss to Lowell, though Dayton need a 19-0 run in the second half to win its opener 64-54 against Illinois-Chicago.

Dayton has not lost four games in a row since January 2014 when the team that would reach the Elite Eight later that season dropped games to Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth, Rhode Island and Saint Joseph’s. It has not lost four straight games this early in the season since it started the 1992-93 season with five straight losses to Illinois, UAB, Alaska-Anchorage, Vanderbilt and Miami University.

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That’s the type of history Dayton would like to avoid when it plays Miami.

“It’s just a good opportunity to show what we’ve been working on,” Dayton guard Elijah Weaver said, “and we’ll try to put it together for the rest of the season.”

Dayton forward Zimi Nwokeji could make his season debut in Orlando. He missed the last four games with an upper-body injury. He was available Saturday but did not play. Grant said he’ll be available in the tournament.

“He’s coming along,” Grant said. “I think right now he’s got to get his rhythm back and get his timing back and all that, but he’s been cleared to full participate in practice.”

THURSDAY’S GAME

Dayton vs. Miami (Fla.), Noon, ESPN2, 1290, 95.7

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