The Dayton Flyers beat Virginia Commonwealth with a seven-man team three years ago in Richmond. They tried to do it with seven players — well, basically, six — on Saturday at the Siegel Center, and it almost worked.
Dayton rallied from a 17-point deficit in the final seven minutes to force overtime but lost 88-84. The five Dayton starters played between 37 and 44 minutes and produced all but three of the points and all but one of the rebounds.
John Crosby played five minutes in the first half, turned the ball over three times and didn’t play again. Matej Svoboda had three points and four fouls in 16 minutes.
Xeyrius Williams and Kostas Antetokounmpo didn’t see the court. That was the biggest mystery, and it’s one Grant didn’t shed much light on after the game. His strategy throughout Atlantic 10 play has been to ride the starters as long as possible.
“Just coach’s decision,” Grant said. “I just felt like the guys on the floor were doing a good job. Just my decision.”
Williams missed the last game because he was sick, Grant said, but was available for this one. Antetokounmpo has seen limited time in recent weeks, but this was the first time he didn’t play since the last VCU game, which he missed because of an illness.
While Dayton’s starters rallied in the final minutes, capping a 16-1 run with a game-tying layup by Josh Cunningham with 0.1 seconds to play, tired legs hurt them earlier in the half. VCU went on a 16-6 run to push its lead to 78-63 at the 3:29 mark. Turnovers and a failure to finish shots hurt Dayton during that stretch.
“I thought we were tired,” Grant said. “I tried to use some timeouts to help us regroup, and our guys were able to find that second wind, but I thought (fatigue) was a little bit of a factor, being honest.”
Jalen Crutcher played all but one minute. He still managed to score 21 points and record eight assists and seven rebounds. He also hit a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left in the second half to cut VCU’s lead to 78-77.
“I felt a little fatigued,” Crutcher said, ” but you’ve just got to keep pushing through in games like this.”
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