St. Bonaventure shows ‘more fire and grit’ in victory against Dayton

Flyers fall into tie for fourth place with seven games to play

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — No Atlantic 10 Conference school surrounds the court with students like St. Bonaventure. Students fill an entire section behind the basket the visiting team uses in the second half. They also line half of one side of the court directly opposite the visitor’s bench.

Explore» PHOTOS: Dayton vs. St. Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure doesn’t always pack the stands — it averages 3,625 fans, and the Reilly Center can seat 5,780 — but when it does, it makes life hard on opponents. For showing up Saturday, students received white T-shirts commemorating the game against the Dayton Flyers. Then the Bonnies gave them more reasons to cheer, dominating the final 17 minutes to beat UD 68-59.

Dayton, once again, showed the flaws that could hurt it in March when a NCAA tournament berth will be on the line at the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament — namely an inability to win away from UD Arena. This was its third straight road loss.

That’s not the only problem with this team right now.

“I’ve been around this game enough,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “You can see when guys are locked in for one thing, that goal: winning. Other things aren’t important but winning and the opportunity to compete for the guy next to you. You have to compete with the guy next to you and go out and do it together — no matter the adversity. When adversity hits, you strengthen and come together and play stronger. For whatever reason, we haven’t been able to capture that. And, so to me, that’s the essence of a team that doesn’t just play to play. You play to win. You have a willingness to do what you need to do, no matter how it’s going for you in that particular game.”

Grant said players need to tell themselves, “I’ve got to do something to help. If that other guy’s got it going, I’ve got to help him be more successful.”

Somewhere along the line, Dayton lost that thinking.

“It’s missing,” Grant said. “We’ve got to find a way to get back to that.”

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Dayton has seven games to work on that before the A-10 tournament starts in Brooklyn, N.Y. In the short term, it’s regular-season championship hopes took another hit as it slipped into a tie for fourth place with St. Bonaventure (11-7, 7-4). The Flyers and Bonnies trail Virginia Commonwealth (18-6, 9-2), Saint Louis (15-8, 7-3) and Fordham (18-4, 6-3).

First place won’t be on the line Tuesday when Dayton plays at VCU. That’s the first game in the most difficult week of the A-10 regular season for the Flyers. They play Saint Louis at UD Arena on Friday.

Dayton beat VCU 82-52 in its last game at the Siegel Center a year ago. A result like that would cure injured egos but seems a distant possibility after the performance at Reilly Center, where Dayton lost for the first time since 2012 after six straight victories.

The Bonnies had the lead for the last 25 minutes and did not let Dayton get closer than nine points in the last 12 minutes.

“If I’m being honest, I saw a team that had more fight and grit than we did,” Grant said.

Grant referenced his team’s “competitive character” and said “it’s been lacking.”

Dayton forward DaRon Holmes II, who led the Flyers with 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting said, “Honestly, they just played more as a team. They played more hungry than we did. We weren’t fully locked in for the game.”

Dayton forward Toumani Camara had 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting and 17 rebounds one game after scoring a career-high 31 points in an 85-81 overtime victory against Loyola Chicago.

“We have a lot of things to figure out as a team,” Camara said. “We’ve been struggling against teams we’re supposed to beat. We’re not playing our best basketball, and I think there’s a lot of things inside the team that we need to fix.”

Explore» ANALYSIS: Three takeaways from Dayton's loss

The Bonnies won the game by making 9 of 24 3-pointers (37.5%). It hit that number despite Daryl Banks, the team’s leading scorer on the season, making 1 of 8. Yann Farrell and Moses Flowers each made three 3-pointers. Kyrell Luc made two.

Dayton made 4 of 20 (20%) 3-pointers, falling to 1-4 when it shoots 20% or worse.

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Forward Chad Venning, who averages 11.6 points per game game, led the Bonnies with 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting. He scored 13 points on 6-of-6 shooting in the first half as St. Bonavenure turned a 20-13 deficit into a 34-27 halftime lead.

St. Bonaventure won its third straight game and built on road victories against Virginia Commonwealth and Richmond. It had not beaten Dayton since a 79-72 victory at UD Arena on Feb. 20, 2016.

St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt beat a team coached by Grant for the first time after losses in each of the last five seasons and improved to 3-17 against Dayton since his first season in 2007-08.

“I thought our effort was tremendous,” Schmidt said. “Dayton’s a heck of a team with great length and great size. It took us a couple of minutes to really figure out the speed and get comfortable with the speed. Initially, they were hurting us on the backboard. But I thought guys in the last 10 minutes of the first half were really defending. We executed really well. We got the ball inside to Chad, and Chad did a really good job. We hit some big shots. We had 10 assists in the first half on 13 field goals. So we were shooting the basketball. In the second half, we got off to a tough start, but we had a great crowd. The crowd really, really supported us and without them we probably wouldn’t be sitting here and as victors.”

Dayton played for the second time in four games without starting guard R.J. Blakney. He sat on the bench but was out of uniform. Dayton lost 75-70 at Rhode Island without him and lost this game without him, too. In between, he played 23 minutes against Richmond and 17 against Loyola Chicago.

Grant did not get into specifics about why Blakney didn’t play against St. Bonaventure. He said he was “unavailable.”

Dayton also lost point guard Malachi Smith to an injury late in the game. He spent the final minutes of the game with the ankle elevated on a stool at the end of the bench. He left the arena on crutches. He hurt his left ankle — the same one he injured in November — late in the second half while competing for a loose ball in a pile of players.

Smith didn’t think the injury was as bad as the one that cost him 11 games earlier this season but said he would have to stay off the ankle for a couple days.

“Hopefully, I’ll wake up tomorrow and feel better,” Smith said.


Dayton at VCU, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network, 1290, 95.7

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