No. 6 Houston didn’t let the UD fans or the team dream for long, seizing control with an early 10-0 run and never letting the Flyers back into the game en route to a 69-55 victory.
Dayton still left with its best finish in the tournament after placing fifth in 2012 and sixth in 2017. The Flyers needed at least two victories to start to build a NCAA tournament resume and got those on the first two days of the tournament against LSU and St. John’s. A loss to Houston, the No. 1 team in the Ken Pomeroy ratings, won’t do much damage to UD’s at-large hopes.
The last five times Dayton has earned a NCAA tournament bid, if you count 2020 when the tournament was cancelled, it has won two of three games in its November tournament.
“These games are really important,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “You have an opportunity to put yourself in a position where you’re in a conversation for what happens in March. That’s the goal. We always talk about the beginning with the end in mind.”
Dayton (3-2) flew home right after the game with eight non-conference games remaining. Here are three takeaways from its fifth game:
1. Offensive rebounds and second-chance points hurt Dayton for the second time: Northwestern turned 12 offensive rebounds into 16 second-chance points in a 71-66 victory against Dayton on Nov. 10. Houston had 17 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points.
“We played against one of the best rebounding teams in LSU and one of the best rebounding teams in St. John’s,” Grant said. “These guys were different. It’s just with their tenacity and their ability to create second shots.”
2. The shots didn’t fall for Dayton: The Flyers made 4 of 18 3-pointers (22.2%) against a defense ranked first in the country in efficiency. It was Dayton’s second-worst shooting performance of the season and worst since it made 5 of 23 (21.7%) in the opener.
Javon Bennett missed all seven of his 3-point attempts. Kobe Elvis, Enoch Cheeks and Koby Brea combined to miss all five of their attempts.
“Their defense obviously caused problems, especially in the first half,” Grant said. “They’re terrific in transition, and defense creates their offense.”
Nate Santos made 3 of 4. Zimi Nwokeji made his only 3-point attempt.
3. Dayton had a big fan advantage for the third straight game: No one questioned who had the most fans all weekend at TD Arena. Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said Friday it would be the first road game for his team and said after the game he was envious of the fan turnout for Dayton.
The fans couldn’t do much Sunday, though because the Flyers fell behind by as many as 20 points in the second half and didn’t make a serious run to challenge the lead.
STAR OF THE GAME
Houston took 16 more shots than Dayton (63-47) thanks in part to eight more offensive rebounds (17-9) and four fewer turnovers (11-7). Dayton also had fewer shots because it took twice as many free throws. The Flyers made 13 of 16, while Houston made 7 of 8.
STAT OF THE GAME
Houston senior guard LJ Cryer led all scorers with 18 points. He made 6 of 14 field goals, including 4 of 8 3-pointers. He’s averaging 15.8 points in six games. Cryer played the last three seasons at Baylor and was the 103rd-ranked recruit in the class of 2020.
Dayton plays Youngstown State (3-2) at 7 p.m. Friday at UD Arena. The Penguins opened the season with losses to Louisiana and Michigan and have since beaten a NAIA program, Ohio Christian, and a Division II program, Lake Erie, as well as one Division I team, Utah Tech.