Dayton’s Koby Brea: ‘This isn’t how we expected our season to start’

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Anthony Grant interview: Nov. 20, 2021

Flyers fall to 1-3 with third straight loss at home

Austin Peay recorded one of its most famous victories — its first NCAA tournament victory — in 1973 at UD Arena. Led by James Fly Williams, who inspired the famous “Fly’s open; let’s go Peay” chant, the Governors beat Jacksonville 77-75 in the first round of the Mideast Regional.

Almost 49 years later, Austin Peay added a memorable chapter to its history while contributing to what is shaping up to be one of the worst seasons in Dayton history.

The Governors, a team with nine newcomers (the sixth most in college basketball), a team picked to finish sixth in the nation’s 28th-ranked conference, a team that had not beaten a Division I team this season, outscored Dayton 14-3 in the last four minutes to win 87-81 on Saturday at UD Arena.

What had been a rough start to the season for Dayton has turned into a disaster with losses to UMass Lowell, Lipscomb and Austin Peay in an eight-day stretch destroying the feel-good story of Dayton fans returning to the arena and selling out the season to see a team with seven newcomers and the Atlantic 10 Conference’s highest-ranked recruiting class.

“It’s been really hard for us as a young group,” Dayton guard Koby Brea said. “This isn’t how we expected our season to start. But it’s great way for us to learn. Even though we wish we were learning through wins, the only way is up for us now. We’ve just got to keep our heads down and keep working add the results we want will come soon.”

Dayton pulled all the stops, playing a full-court pressure defense for all 40 minutes and an expanded 10-man rotation, to try to beat Austin Peay and stop its slide. The result was the same because of how poorly it played in the last four minutes.

After a free throw by Toumani Camara with 4:12 to play, Dayton didn’t score again until Kobe Elvis made a 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds left. During that stretch, Austin Peay scored 11 straight points while Dayton missed seven straight shots and committed two turnovers.

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Austin Peay’s run started when Lynn Greer III fouled Tariq Silver on a 3-point attempt with 3:21 to play. He made 2 of 3 to cut Dayton’s lead to 78-75. On the next possession, Austin Peay tied the game with 2:55 to play on a 3-pointer by Carlos Paez. It then took an 80-78 lead on a basket by Caleb Stone-Carrawell with 2:18 to go.

Everything went wrong for Dayton in the last four minutes, ruining what had been its best performance of the season. It enjoyed its first halftime lead (46-38) and stretched the advantage to 53-41 early in the second half. The Flyers shot a season-best 48.3 percent from the field and topped their previous high score by 17 points. In the end, it didn’t matter, in part because Dayton made 3 of 21 3-pointers while Austin Peay made 10 of 21.

“We tried to make plays that weren’t there,” Camara said. “We tried to be a little too individual and not stick to the game plan. It’s been something that’s been happening in the last three games.”

This is Dayton’s first three-game losing streak since Grant’s second season when it fell to Virginia, Oklahoma and Mississippi State. Considering the quality of these three opponents, this is one of the worst three-game stretches in Dayton history, if not the worst — and this is the easy part of the schedule.

Dayton plays the Miami Hurricanes at noon Thursday in the first round of the ESPN Events Invitational in Orlando, Fla. Kansas or North Texas will be the second opponent. Whoever Dayton plays in the third game in the tournament, it will be a team higher ranked than the three teams to beat Dayton on its home court.

If Dayton (1-3) doesn’t beat Miami, it will be the program’s worst start since it lost its first five games in the 1992-93 season. That team finished 4-26, recording the worst record in the modern era of Dayton basketball.

“Our team right now is not understanding or at the point where we can accept who we are as individuals,” Grant said. “and what we need to do to be successful. Down the stretch or at any point in the game, it makes it difficult to win, and it caught us again today.”

Dayton’s pressure defense helped it force 15 turnovers. It also created easy looks for Austin Peay, and that’s why it outscored Dayton 35-17 in fast-break points.

“It’s something that we’ve, on and off, worked on in practice before,” Grant said, “so it wasn’t something that we just tried to implement in the last two days. Obviously, today we utilized it a lot more. We’re just trying to give our guys an identity. It’s something that we felt could help us with such a young team. We’ll look at the film. There were some things that were really good and some things that hurt us today. We gave up some easy opportunities. But it did create a style that I think gave us a chance today to have some success.”

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