Dayton Flyers coach Anthony Grant was in no mood to contemplate the larger implications of his team’s 86-82 double-overtime loss to Masssachusetts on Saturday.
The intensity in Grant’s voice rose when he answered this question in the postgame press conference.
“Is it hard to keep a game like that from being just one loss?” a Massachusetts reporter asked.
“That’s what it is,” Grant said. “It’s one loss. That’s all it is. It’s one game. That’s reality. We’ve got another one on Wednesday.”
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There’s no debating Grant’s point, but this was one loss that falls into a different category than most. The Flyers (10-12, 4-6) battled for 50 minutes but left the Mullins Center with their second loss in a row and fourth in their last five games. They fell into ninth place in the Atlantic 10.
“A game like that’s very hard because of the simple fact that we went to two overtimes,” Dayton forward Josh Cunningham said. “You’re working that hard and playing that hard, and you want to come out with the victory even more. It’s pretty tough.”
Here are four takeaways from the game:
1. Crazy shot: The game turned on a desperation 3-pointer by Massachusetts guard Luwane Pipkins with 55 seconds left in the second overtime. He picked up a loose ball near halfcourt and banked in a shot from several steps behind the 3-point line with Darrell Davis in his face. The Minutemen took an 84-81 lead.
Dayton fans will say he didn’t get it off in time. One video from the opposite end of the court shows the ball in his hands with no time on the shot clock. Officials reviewed the shot for several minutes before ruling it good.
“One of the great coaches, Steve Spurrier, used to say, ‘God smiled on the Gators today,’ ” said UMass coach Matt McCall, whose team (11-13, 4-7) ended a five-game losing streak. “God smiled on the Minutemen on that shot. As a coach, you’re moving on to the next play. I told our team (the review) took a long time. Maybe it gave us an opportunity to get some rest. I told our team, ‘Whether or not it went in, we’ve got to get a stop. Whether or not it counted, we’ve got to get a stop.’
“I kept going back to the huddle and peeking at the monitor. The ball bounced our way. It was a bang-bang play. I’m sure it was close — whether he got it off or didn’t get it off.”
Cunningham made 1 of 2 free throws after the shot by Pipkins, and then Unique McLean sealed the victory for UMass with a jump shot with 12 seconds left.
2. Stopping Pipkins: That wasn’t the only big shot Pipkins made. He scored 25 points in a 62-60 victory against Dayton at UD Arena on Jan. 6 and scored 28 points in this one, making 11 of 27 field goals and 6 of 13 3-pointers.
Pipkins had eight points in the first five minutes, and Dayton point guard Jalen Crutcher picked up two fouls on one possession guarding Pipkins in that stretch. The Flyers did a better job against Pipkins in the final 45 minutes.
“We just put different guys on him,” Grant said. “He’s a heck of a player. Between him and (Carl) Pierre, they make 10 3s in the game. We knew that would be a big factor. We weren’t able to limit those opportunities. Obviously, the one by Pipkins was a huge one late in the shot clock. Give him credit.”
3. Major minutes: Dayton didn’t make a substitution in the second half or the first overtime. One starter left the court in the second overtime. Trey Landers fouled out in the first minute.
Matej Svoboda replaced Landers and played the rest of the game. Asked why he chose Svoboda to replace Landers, Grant said it was a “coach’s decision” and didn’t elaborate. Landers scored a career-high 22 points.
Jordan Davis led the Flyers in minutes with 49. Josh Cunningham, who scored 27 points, played 47 minutes, as did Darrell Davis, who scored 15.
Grant used timeouts to get his players rest in the overtime periods. He said he stuck with the same group because “I thought those guys battled. I thought they did a really good job.”
4. Key stats: Dayton picked a bad time to struggle at the free-throw line, making 13 of 22 (59.1 percent). Entering the game, the Flyers were shooting 73.5 percent.
Dayton’s 3-point defense again proved costly. UMass made 12 of 26 3-pointers (46.5 percent). It’s the second game in a row opponents have topped 40 percent against the Flyers.