The Dayton Flyers took a 69-65 lead into the final four minutes after baskets by Ryan Mikesell and Jalen Crutcher on Wednesday at Virginia Commonwealth.
While Dayton fans may have felt good entering that stretch, they couldn’t have felt comfortable because they have seen the team fade at the end of games several times this season. While Dayton pulled out close victories against Georgia Southern, George Washington and Massachusetts during a six-game winning streak, it has failed to finish games against the better teams. Mississippi State outscored Dayton 15-5 down the stretch. Oklahoma and Tulsa broke open close games in the final 10 minutes.
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In a 76-71 loss at the Siegel Center, Dayton saw VCU outscore it 11-2 in the final four minutes. The UD defense got enough stops. The offense, Crutcher admitted, got stagnant.
“I’ll look at the last four minutes,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “I thought we had decent looks. They didn’t go down for us.”
After taking that four-point lead, here’s what Dayton’s offense did in the key stretch.
3:40: Mikesell missed an open 3-pointer from the corner.
2:51: Crutcher missed a 3-pointer from near the top of the key.
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2:07: Josh Cunningham, who had five of Dayton’s 12 turnovers, traveled while trying to back down Marcus Santos-Silva in the paint.
1:33: Crutcher drove to the baseline and then threw a pass into traffic in the paint to Cunningham. VCU knocked it away and came up with the steal.
0:57: Mikesell missed a rushed 3-pointer with the shot clock about to expire.
0:25: After VCU’s Marcus Evans hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 33 seconds left, Crutcher took the ball from coast to coast and had a layup blocked by Santos-Silva.
0:13: Evans hit two free throws to give the Rams a five-point lead. This time, Jordan Davis attacked the rim and got a good look. The ball hit the backboard and came to rest on the back of the rim.
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Dayton ended a nearly four-minute scoring drought on a basket by Cunningham with four seconds to play.
“We had some layups and stuff,” Mikesell said. “I think I had a shot in the corner I should have knocked down. I think we were getting shots. I think we just can’t get caught up with the time, and we need to flow into our offense and get out in transition. Just because it’s at the end of the game doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get out running and get easy buckets.”
Sellout streak: VCU has sold out all 127 games at the Siegel Center since the facility opened on Jan. 29, 2011.
VCU ranks second in the A-10 in average home attendance (7,637) this season behind Dayton (12,875). Saint Louis (6,796) ranks third. As a whole, the league averages 4,540 fans per home game. Duquesne (1,860) and Fordham (1,528) rank at the bottom in attendance.
Looking ahead: The Flyers play at St. Bonaventure (6-11, 2-2) at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in Olean, N.Y. The Flyers have won four straight games at the Reilly Center. The Bonnies lost 75-63 at St. Bonaventure on Wednesday.
Dayton takes a charter flight into Bradford, Pa., which is 21 miles southwest of Olean, on Friday. With snow in the forecast Saturday, Dayton may have trouble getting out of Olean.