Dayton suffers another excruciating loss to VCU

Flyers return home for two games next week

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

RICHMOND, Va. — At one point during a timeout in the second half Friday at the Siegel Center, stuffed animals — puppies, to be exact — fell from the ceiling, attached to small, white parachutes. Virginia Commonwealth could have shot T-shirts into the crowd. Instead, it dropped dogs from the rafters. Fans clambered to catch them.

The Dayton Flyers and VCU Rams probably didn’t notice what was taking place behind them in the stands. They were dealing with enough weirdness on the court.

VCU didn’t score in the last 5 minutes, 58 seconds and put up its lowest score of the season and still beat No. 18 Dayton 49-47 in the first of two Atlantic 10 Conference showdowns between the two schools. Neither team scored in the last three minutes.

Dayton still had a chance to send the game to overtime or win it at the buzzer. It put the ball in the hands of its star, forward DaRon Holmes II, after a timeout with 10 seconds to play. Holmes missed a one-handed bank shot from the right side in the final seconds.

“It’s tough,” Dayton forward Nate Santos said. “I think frustrating is a perfect way to describe it. We were right there. I don’t think we played our best.”

“Maybe it’s Richmond,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant joked. “We haven’t shot the ball well in this city.”

Dayton lost for the second time in a 14-day stretch in Richmond. It suffered the other loss six miles west of the Siegel Center at the Robins Center, 69-64 to the Richmond Spiders on Jan. 27. Adding travel difficulties to basketball frustration, mechanical problems kept Dayton from leaving on a charter flight after the game, and it wasn’t scheduled to return home until Saturday afternoon. The Flyers, who flew to Richmond after a victory at Saint Joseph’s on Tuesday, spent their fourth night in the city.

This game goes down as Dayton’s worst offensive performance and best defensive performance. Dayton’s effective field-goal percentage (40.4) was its worst mark of the season. VCU put up its third-worst number (42.5%). The Flyers made 4 of 17 3-pointers (23.5%), their fourth-worst performance of the season. VCU made 5 of 21 (23.8), their second-worst performance.

“We’ve been pretty efficient in terms of our ability offensively,” Grant said. “Tonight, it didn’t work out for us, but our defense kept us in the game andgave us a chance at the end. I think we’ll be better offensively. We’ve had a couple of games this year where we’ve had struggles, and this was one of them. But I think, on the other side of that, it’s a one-possession game on the road with those struggles.”

The loss dropped Dayton (19-4, 9-2) out of first place. It trails Richmond (18-6, 8-1), which plays at home game against La Salle (11-12, 2-8) on Saturday. Loyola Chicago (16-7, 8-2) is a half game back of Dayton entering a game Saturday at George Washington (14-8, 3-6).

VCU (16-8, 8-3) kept its hopes of repeating as A-10 champions alive. It plays at Dayton on March 8 in the final game of the regular season.

For Dayton, Friday’s result falls into a growing category of painful losses to VCU during Grant’s seven seasons.

• In 2018, VCU beat Dayton 88-84 thanks in part to a go-ahead layup by Justin Tillman with 26 seconds left in overtime in Richmond.

• There was the tie-breaking jump shot by Jonathan Williams with 58 seconds to play that same season in the A-10 tournament in Washington, D.C. VCU won 77-72.

• There was the go-ahead 3-pointer by Marcus Evans in the final minute at the Siegel Center in 2019. VCU won 76-71.

• There was the game-winning layup by Evans later that same season at UD Arena. VCU won 69-68.

• In 2022, Dayton fell 53-52 at UD Arena when Adrian “Ace” Baldwin made a go-ahead 3-pointer with six seconds to play.

• Last season, there was the 63-62 loss at UD Arena in 2023 when Dayton blew a four-point lead in the final 30 seconds.

• Then in the last meeting before Tuesday, Dayton missed its last 15 shots and lost 68-56 to VCU in the A-10 championship game last season.

The Flyers missed their last three shots Friday. Turnovers also hurt in the final minutes. Santos stepped out of bounds with 1:31 to play. On Dayton’s next possession, Holmes was called for an offensive foul. The official thought he used his arm to hook the defender.

Meanwhile, on the other end, VCU twice missed the front end of 1-and-1s and committed two turnovers in the final four minutes.

“Our offense was not very good down the stretch,” VCU coach Ryan Odom said. “We’ve got to be better going forward to finish games. We had to rely totally on our defense down the stretch, but we were able to get that stop on the last possession.”

All five starters scored in double figures Tuesday for Dayton. Santos led Dayton with 19 points in this game. Holmes had 12 and would have had more but made only 5 of 13 free throws. He was shooting 70.7% on the season. His percentage dropped to 68.6. Just two games ago, in a victory against St. Bonaventure at UD Arena, he made 13 of 17.

“We’ve just got to keep our heads up,” Holmes said. “There were a bunch of things. That game was more on us, I felt like, than it was on them, especially with the free throws. I know I didn’t have a great free-throw shooting day today. We didn’t have the best shooting day overall from the perimeter and just finishing. That’s all stuff we can clean up. Luckily, we get to see them again and we’re gonna be OK at the end of the day.”


Duquesne at Dayton, 7 p.m., Spectrum News 1, 95.7, 1290

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