The Dayton Flyers reached the halfway point of the season in the only way that makes sense for a team that has alternated wins and losses, with one exception, all season. On the other hand, not much makes sense about their eighth defeat.
The game ended when Darrell Davis dribbled through traffic and threw up a difficult shot at the buzzer. The ball hit the front of the rim, and Dayton headed to the locker room with another frustrating loss. Massachusetts, playing without two suspended starters and with only six scholarship players, beat Dayton 62-60 on Saturday afternoon in front of a crowd of 12,654 at UD Arena.
Dayton (7-8, 1-2) has yet to win back-to-back games in the first season of the Anthony Grant era. This defeat followed an 82-72 victory over St. Bonaventure. That was Dayton’s best victory. This one ranks among the worst losses, though it’s a growing list.
After the game, Grant tried to explain the inexplicable, saying his team wasn’t able to do the things it did Wednesday to beat the Bonnies.
“We weren’t able to duplicate the effort, the energy, the focus tonight,” Grant said. “UMass came in and obviously played very hungry, very passionate. I thought their energy for the most part was better than ours.”
UMass (8-8, 1-2) trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half but began a 16-4 run with 3:48 left in the period. By the time that spurt ended, the Minutemen led 36-34 less than four minutes into the second half.
“The end of the first half, the beginning of the second half kind of told the tale,” Grant said. “The last 12 minutes, I thought our guys really fought and gave us an opportunity to win the game, but it takes a lot longer than that with the team we have to beat anybody in this league.
“That’s the thing we’ve got to be able to understand. We just don’t have the margin for error not to show up for 40 minutes with the focus and energy and effort that it takes. It’s hard right now obviously as a coach to figure out the buttons that need to be pushed and the combinations we need.”
The Flyers had their last lead at the 10:40 mark after a 3-pointer by Jalen Crutcher, who led the team with 14 points.
The biggest shot for UMass came with 53 seconds to play. A jumper by Luwane Pipkins, who scored 25 points, gave UMass a 62-58 lead.
Davis hit two free throws with 49 seconds to play. UMass committed a turnover with 19 seconds remaining, setting up Dayton for the final shot. Josh Cunningham, who scored six straight points after Dayton fell behind 58-50 with six minutes left, touched the ball only briefly at the start of the final possession.
“The first option was to try to go inside to Josh,” Grant said. “I have to go back and look at it to see if that option was available to us. The second option was for Darrell to go up top in the middle of the floor and have an opportunity to get a shot or drive to the rim. We didn’t run the action at the pace we needed to. I wanted the shot to happen a little quicker.”