Familiar problems haunt Dayton in loss to VCU in A-10 opener

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Anthony Grant postgame press conference after loss to VCU: Jan. 5, 2022

Turnovers, 3-point accuracy lead to fourth straight loss to Rams

The list of Virginia Commonwealth daggers to beat the Dayton Flyers grew by one Wednesday.

» PHOTOS: Dayton vs. VCU

• There was the go-ahead layup by Justin Tillman with 26 seconds left in overtime in Richmond in 2018. VCU won that game 88-84.

• There was the tie-breaking jump shot by Jonathan Williams with 58 seconds to play that same season in the Atlantic 10 Conference 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 Richmond 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.

• Most recently, in the A-10 opener for both teams Wednesday at UD Arena, there was the 3-pointer with six seconds to play by Adrian “Ace” Baldwin, a sophomore guard playing in his fourth game this season after rupturing his Achilles tendon last summer.

“I knew it was going in,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin’s basket and a last-second miss by Dayton’s R.J. Blakney resulted in a 53-52 victory for VCU at UD Arena. The Rams have won four games in a row in the series and eight of the last 10 since Dayton’s 106-79 victory at UD Arena in 2018.

The loss looks worse for Dayton (8-6) when you consider VCU (8-4) played without two starters (Levi Stockard and Jayden Nunn, who average 17.8 points between them) and hadn’t played a game in 21 days. Dayton hadn’t played in 16 days but had its entire roster available.

“They’ve been off for longer than we have,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said, “so we don’t have any excuses.”

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Dayton Flyers highlights: VCU wins on last-second shot on Jan. 5, 2022

The Flyers lost for a number of reasons. Here are four:

1. They chose not to use they fouls they had to give in the final seconds: Dayton had committed four fouls when VCU called timeout with 14.2 seconds left to set up the final shot. The Flyers faced a similar situation against Belmont in the ESPN Events Invitational and used the foul situation to their advantage, fouling the Bruins three times in a row and finally putting them at the line with a 3-point lead, denying them the chance to attempt a game-tying 3-pointer.

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This time, Dayton had a 52-50 lead. Prior to VCU’s final possession, Dayton took the lead when R.J. Blakney made one free throw, missed the second, grabbed the offensive rebound and then was fouled again. Once again, he stepped to the line and made 1 of 2. Dayton made 19 of 27 free throws, while VCU got to the line only twice and made them both.

Grant and players knew they had fouls to give, but with Malachi Smith, who had four fouls, guarding Baldwin, a 26 percent 3-point shooter, they took their chances. It didn’t work out.

“He made a tough shot,” Holmes II said. “That was luck, but that comes into play sometimes. We shouldn’t have let it get to that point. Credit to him for that shot.”

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DaRon Holmes II interview: Jan. 5, 2022

2. They made one field goal in the last 11 minutes: Aside from a game-tying basket by Toumani Camara, who led all scorers with 16 points, with 1:24 to play, Dayton got all its points (10) at the free-throw line in the final 11 minutes.

Dayton missed eight shots in a row before Camara’s basket. A lot of that had to do with VCU’s defense, which ranked third in the nation in efficiency entering the game.

3. They committed too many turnovers: VCU’s defense was effective in a different way in the first half when it forced 12 turnovers. The Flyers had three turnovers in the second half.

“I don’t believe they forced us to make turnovers,” Camara said. “I think we just made bad decisions.”

Dayton is now averaging 14.6 turnovers per game. That translates to turnovers on 22.2 percent of its possessions, according to KenPom.com. That would be the program’s worst number since the 1996-97 season (22.8) if it holds up.

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Toumani Camara interview: Jan. 5, 2022

4. They struggled from long range: Dayton made 3 of 15 3-pointers (20 percent), while VCU made 7 of 21 (33 percent). Dayton has shot worse than 30 percent in its last five losses, and its season percentage has slipped to 31.3, which if it holds up would be the worst mark for the program since the 1995-96 team shot 30.4 percent.

The only Flyer who made multiple 3-pointers was Camara (2 of 4), who ranks last in accuracy (6 of 28, 21.4) among Dayton players who have attempted at least 10 3-pointers.

“I feel like I’ve always been a pretty good 3-point shooter,” Camara said. “It’s just the mental part for me, I guess. I need to be more confident in my shooting.”

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Obi Toppin interview: Jan. 5, 2021

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