Dayton’s list of heartbreaking losses to VCU grows by one

Flyers have lost three one-point games to Rams in last six seasons

On his postgame radio show, Virginia Commonwealth coach Mike Rhoades said, “I love close games.”

Rhoades should. In his six seasons as coach, VCU has beaten the Dayton Flyers seven times in eight games when the final margin is five points or fewer. Six of those games have been heartbreakers for Dayton, three decided by one point.

• There was an 88-84 overtime loss in Richmond in 2018 after a 15-point comeback by Dayton in the final four minutes.

• A 77-72 loss that same season followed in the A-10 tournament

• In 2019, Dayton lost 76-71 in Richmond when VCU’s Marcus Evans hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 33 seconds to play.

• There was a 69-68 loss at UD Arena in 2019 that featured a 22-point comeback by Dayton and a go-ahead layup by Evans with six seconds remaining.

• Last season, the Flyers lost 53-52 at UD Arena when Adrian Baldwin made a go-ahead 3-pointer with six seconds remaining.

• And finally, the latest game on the list, a 63-62 loss on Friday at UD Arena.

This is the most stunning loss for Dayton on the list because of a series of events in the final 30 seconds but not really a heartbreaker because the hearts of the Flyers and their fans had been shattered so many times this season already.

“That was a tough loss,” Dayton forward DaRon Holmes II said. “It happens. Not everything’s always going to be perfect. This is a learning lesson, and we’re just going to keep moving forward.”

Dayton (12-6, 4-1) still found itself in first place after the loss, tied with Virginia Commonwealth (13-5, 4-1). The Flyers get another chance against VCU on Feb. 7 in Richmond. They made the most of that second chance a season ago, winning 82-52 at the Siegel Center.

Until then, this defeat will sting. Dayton hadn’t lost at UD Arena since VCU last visited on Jan. 5, 2022, winning 17 straight games. It was in a good position to beat VCU most of the night Friday, building a 16-point lead in the first half and hanging onto the lead for the first 19 minutes of the second half.

With 1:09 to play, Dayton forward Toumani Camara rebounded a miss by Mustapha Amzil and scored just before the shot clock expired to give Dayton a 62-58 lead. On VCU’s next possession, Camara stole the ball from Brandon John’s Jr. with 53 seconds to play. Dayton coach Anthony Grant was so excited he chest bumped Camara after play stopped.

VCU fouled Mike Sharavjamts to stop the clock. At that point, VCU had a 2.1% chance of winning the game, according to Sharavjamts stepped to the line with a chance to extend Dayton’s lead but missed the front end of a 1-and-1.

VCU then committed another turnover, this one by Baldwin with 34 seconds left.

Then the Dayton meltdown started. Sharavjamts threw a long in-bounds pass that was intercepted by David Shriver, who made a 3-pointer with 28 seconds to play.

On Dayton’s next possession, Koby Brea passed the ball to Camara past halfcourt, but he was trapped by two defenders, and VCU’s Nick Kern stole the ball. He took it the other way for a go-ahead layup with 16 seconds to play.

Dayton turned the ball over again on the in-bounds play after that basket, but Jayden Nunn missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Dayton got the ball over halfcourt and called timeout to set up a play with 5.7 seconds left. Camara got the ball but missed a shot near the rim with two defenders on him.

Asked if he liked the shot he got, Camara said, “I think I could have pump faked. I think I had another second.”

It was the third time this season Dayton has had a shot in the final seconds to win the game. Kobe Elvis missed a jumper in the final seconds against Wisconsin. Malachi Smith twisted his ankle as he drove to the hoop in the final seconds in a tie game against Brigham Young.

There were five losses of that variety last season. Dayton had the last shot in losses to UMass Lowell, VCU, George Mason La Salle and Vanderbilt.

On Camara’s shot, Grant said Dayton had a few options.

“They took away the post,” he said. “We felt if they took that away, we wanted to get the ball to Toumani and let him try to drive to get to the rim. We wanted to put pressure on the rim.”

Camara had the game of his life, except for the fact that he had nine of Dayton’s 18 turnovers. He not only scored a career-high 27 points, but made numerous defensive stops, especially in the first half. It was all for naught after the mistakes in the final 30 seconds and his miss at the end.

“There’s nothing we can do,” Camara said. “What’s done is done. We need to move on from it and get better.”

As good as Camara was, the star of the second half was VCU’s David Shriver, who made 6 of 8 3-pointers, all after halftime, and finished with 18 points. He has made 15 of 19 3-pointers in the last three games.

Shriver’s shooting rallied VCU in the second half and put Dayton in the position of playing in a close game in the final minutes for the first time since the Battle 4 Atlantis in December. The Flyers had won their last seven games by double digits.

“I didn’t sense any panic or anything like that in our group,” Grant said. “I thought we had good poise. We had a four-point lead. The guys made the free throws down the stretch. I thought we made poor decisions with a four-point lead with under a minute to play. We made some poor decisions with the basketball. And we got caught today because of those decisions.”


Davidson at Dayton, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network, 1290, 95.7

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