Grant after Dayton’s loss to Lowell: ‘This stings, but bear with me’

Turnovers a big issue in worst non-conference home loss in many years

UMass Lowell moved to Division I in the 2013-14 season, the same season the Dayton Flyers reached the Elite Eight. The River Hawks lost to Michigan in their first game at college basketball’s top level and also lost to Cincinnati and a trio of Atlantic 10 Conference teams that season: Rhode Island; St. Bonaventure; and Duquesne.


Over the next seven seasons, Lowell lost to the likes of Ohio State (three times), Northwestern, Wisconsin, Connecticut, North Carolina State and Massachusetts. Its signature non-conference victory — until Saturday night — in its first eight seasons in Division I came last season against San Francisco, which ranked 93rd in the Ken Pomeroy ratings.

That game now ranks second on Lowell’s list of biggest upsets because it beat Dayton 59-58 at UD Arena. For Dayton, it’s one one of the worst losses this century — the worst loss at home if you go by, which ranks Lowell No. 275 and Dayton No. 82.

ExplorePHOTOS: Dayton vs. UMass Lowell

“Did you see Lowell as a dangerous opponent?” Grant was asked in the postgame press conference. “They played Ohio State close last year and finished strong.”

The fifth-year Dayton coach then gave this long answer.

“We’re talented, but we’re young,” Grant said, “so we have to be able to figure it out. I feel like every game for us we’re going to have to really be able to bring our best and bring a level of focus. That’s just the reality of it. Bear with me. This stings. But bear with me. With as many young people as we have, we’re figuring out what it takes to be able to win in college basketball.

“The guys that were freshmen last year, this is somewhat a new experience for them even though they got to compete last year. The new guys, the true freshmen coming in, you can talk about it as much as you want, like we’ve really harped on the need to take care of the ball and need to block out, the need to make good decisions, the need to play together, to play the right way because you kind of know as a coach — I’ve been doing this for a long time — what’s coming. But your players sometimes they have to go through it. I can’t manufacture experience. We have to go through some stuff. Every game for us, we’ve got to be prepared that it’s going to be a war. This team tonight came in with some veteran guys. They had some young guys, some new pieces. But they’re well coached. There are good players all over the country, good players everywhere.”

How did Dayton lose at home to a program that has never experienced a winning season in Division I? Here are four ways:

1. Too many turnovers: Dayton had 15 turnovers, almost twice as many as Lowell (8). Toumani Camara led the Flyers with three turnovers. Elijah Weaver also had three. He stepped out of bounds while driving the baseline with 17 seconds to play when Dayton trailed 59-58.

“Turnovers is the biggest thing,” Weaver said. “Turnovers and toughness.”

2. Bad luck: Dayton trailed 57-52 when Weaver made a 3-pointer with 2:01 to play. He made another 3 on Dayton’s next possession to give Dayton the lead with 1:17 to play.

With 35 seconds to play, Lowell’s Kalil Thomas threw up an airball on a 3-point attempt, but Allin Blunt grabbed the offensive rebounds. The official called a foul on Camara for pushing him out of bounds as he got the ball. Blunt made both free throws, which turned out to be the game-winners.

“It was a bang-bang play,” Weaver said. “He was boxing out, and his foot was on the line, so it could go either way.”

Explore» FOOTBALL: Dayton ends season on positive note

3. Stagnant offense: The game was tied at 10-10 eight minutes into the game. Dayton scored two points in the next seven minutes and trailed 28-21 at halftime. It shot 24 percent in the first half.

Camara, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds in a season-opening 64-54 victory against Illinois-Chicago on Tuesday, was limited to one shot in the first half. He finished with four points and seven rebounds, while freshman DaRon Holmes II led the team with 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting.

Holmes also tied a school record with six blocks, which is also the most by a true freshman in a game in program history.

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

4. Poor execution at the end: Dayton got two chances to regain the lead in the final seconds after Blunt made the go-ahead free throws. Weaver missed a 3-pointer with five seconds to play. The ball went out of bounds, and Dayton regained possession with 4.8 seconds to play.

Freshman Malachi Smith, who did not leave the court for the last 14 minutes, threw an in-bounds pass that was tipped. Weaver got off a desperate 3-pointer that had no chance. Lowell celebrated its second victory against an Atlantic 10 Conference school in 12 attempts. It beat Fordham in the 2014-15 season.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed,” Grant said. “As a coach, this is a hard lesson for a young team. We made a lot of mistakes but found a way to win our last game. Tonight we couldn’t get it done, and it was a combination of a lot of things. We will go back and look at the film. I think we’ll see that a lot of it was self inflicted from offensive rebounds to careless turnovers to poor decisions that we continue to make.”


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