Dayton’s John Crosby (15) and Josh Cunningham celebrate a play against Penn on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, at UD Arena. Erik Schelkun/Elestar Images

Grant on Flyers’ effort vs. Penn: ‘You could kind of see this coming’

Anthony Grant said he didn’t want to “bellyache too much” about what he had just witnessed Saturday afternoon. After all, it was just one game in a long season.

But a 78-70 loss to Penn was the reason the Flyers’ first-year coach was in the interview room at UD Arena. It wasn’t the kind of a numbing loss that ends your season in March. But he had to say something, and he didn’t like the feeling.

“We should have no bad nights with effort, we should have no bad nights with communication, we should have no bad nights with an attitude in terms of what it takes to put ourselves in the best position to win,” he said.

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Dayton (4-5) isn’t supposed to lose to Ivy League teams. The Flyers were 13-0 all-time against the Ivy League until Saturday.

“Being honest with you, over the last couple of days you could kind of see this coming with the we’ve approached what we’ve done,” Grant said.

Here are four more takeaways from Grant’s postgame comments:

Grant’s expectations remain high: Grant played on teams at Dayton in the 1980s that won an average 17.5 games a season. He’s coached in winning programs. So 4-5 doesn’t feel right.

“There’s an expectation that I have for a program standard that we have to aspire to, that we have to hold ourselves accountable to,” he said. “We haven’t met that. We’ve been able to play .500 basketball. That’s not what this program’s about. That’s not what I aspire to do.”

The Flyers’ next chance to get back to .500 is Saturday at home against Georgia State (6-3) after a week of final exams. Then it’s a difficult road assignment to West Coast mid-major power Saint Mary’s. Following a home game against Wagner, the Flyers start Atlantic 10 play at Duquesne on Dec. 30.

Defense takes consistent effort: Penn (8-4) finished a five-game road trip Saturday with a 4-1 record. The only loss was at No. 4 Villanova. The Quakers surely weren’t considered a pushover on the scouting report, but no one could have seen the shooting display coming that the Quakers put on Saturday.

The Flyers slowed them down after a hot start to turn a 14-point deficit into a 35-35 tie at halftime. But the defensive momentum did not carry over to the second half.

“Unfortunately in the second half we weren’t able to sustain the effort that was required to be able to get the win when you look at their numbers,” Grant said.

The Quakers entered the game shooting 43.5 percent and shot 55.3 percent, including 65 percent in the second half. They entered shooting 33.2 percent from 3-point range and as one of the most willing teams in the country to shoot 3-pointers at 26 attempts a game. The Quakers shot only 18 3-pointers, but they made 13 of them for 59.1 percent. They were 5 of 8 in the second half.

It takes stops to get the offense running: The Flyers like to score in transition and were coming off a win over Tennessee Tech in which they scored 23 fast-break points. They got only seven against the Quakers, but that’s not from a lack of desire to run. It’s from a lack of opportunity.

“They did a good job defensively of making us go against five guys all night,” Grant said. “A lot of that had to do with their ability to score, which allowed them to set their defense.”

It’s not time to panic: With a lot of new faces and players in new roles, Grant is looking for combinations that work.

He started Josh Cunningham and Darrell Davis and played them for 37 minutes. But he also started Kostas Antetokounmpo, Trey Landers and Jalen Crutcher and none played more than 18 minutes. Jordan Davis, Matej Svoboda and John Crosby came off the bench and played between 25 and 30 minutes because they sparked the team in both halves.

Starter Xeyrius Williams was sidelined for the fifth straight game with back spasms. His return is unknown.

“It’s a long season,” Grant said. “We’ve got a lot of maturing and a lot of growth to do.”

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