A Dayton coach let out a primal scream of relief and celebration on the walk up the ramp to the locker room in the Don Donoher Center after a 75-65 victory over George Washington on Saturday at UD Arena.
The last three walks up that steep incline must have felt like treks to the summit of Everest for the Flyers. Of course, there was no joy at the peak after losses to Saint Louis, Virginia Commonwealth and Saint Joseph’s. Those walks gave the team just a bit more time to reflect on the latest disappointments.
As sophomore forward Dyshawn Pierre wrote Saturday on Twitter, “This is how it’s supposed to feel.”
The Flyers are supposed to win at home. A team that beats California, which handed No. 1 Arizona and Archie Miller’s brother Sean their first loss on Saturday, and Gonzaga and Ole Miss should be able to win conference games at home.
That wasn’t the case in January. The Flyers are now 14-8 and 2-5 in the Atlantic 10, tied with Rhode Island and Duquesne for ninth place. They’re five games behind first-place Saint Louis (7-0). The top four seeds in the A-10 tournament get byes to the quarterfinals, and the Flyers trail the teams tied for third, George Washington and Saint Joseph’s (both 5-2), by three games.
Dayton also hopes to avoid getting the No. 12 or 13 seeds because those teams play an extra game for the right to play the No. 5 seed in the next round. Dayton is a half game ahead of Fordham (2-6) and two games ahead of last-place George Mason (0-7).
Maybe Saturday’s victory will give UD the momentum it needs to change things in February. Past history shows it guarantees nothing. UD moved one game over .500 in the A-10 over the last 10 years (76-75) by beating George Washington.
The Flyers hope to continue the long climb up the standings with wins at George Mason on Wednesday and Saint Bonaventure on Saturday.
“It was definitely hard,” said junior guard Jordan Sibert of the four-game losing streak. “You lose a little faith every now and then. You get down on yourself. But when you have teammates and a coaching staff and family that encourages you, you just believe in yourself. We pray before every game. The streak is over now. We’re back in the winning circle.”
Dayton at George Mason, 7 p.m. Wednesday, WHIO TV, 1290, 95.7