The fans in the Dayton Flyers student section had fun. The same couldn’t be said for the rest of the crowd of 13,125 at UD Arena on Wednesday.
The students chanted “FBI! FBI!” at Auburn coach Bruce Pearl all night, referencing the scandal that rocked Auburn and the rest of college basketball earlier this fall. Auburn will hear those chants all season. This was its first true road game — and a taste of what’s to come.
Dayton students also informed Pearl during the first half that his fly was open. He thanked them and asked why they didn’t let him know earlier. Pearl could laugh about it because of how well his team was playing on the court.
Auburn (5-1) dominated Dayton (3-3) for all but a four-minute span and won 73-60 at UD Arena, beating Dayton for the first time in five tries and ending Dayton’s 16-game home winning streak. Auburn held the lead for 35 minutes, 50 seconds.
“We had a difficult time rebounding the ball,” Dayton sophomore guard Trey Landers said. “We had a difficult time against their zone with our offense, but at the end of the day, it’s stuff we can fix. We’ve got time to bounce back. We can’t get sad about this.”
Here are five reasons Dayton lost:
1. Turnovers: The Flyers averaged 10.8 turnovers in the first five games and didn’t commit more than 14 in one game. They had five turnovers in the first four minutes against Auburn, 10 overall in the first half and nine in the second half.
“I thought we were doing a really good job taking care of the basketball over the course of those five games,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “Obviously, tonight when you look at 10 assists and 19 turnovers, that tells a story. I knew coming into tonight, our ability to take care of the basketball, keeping them out of transition and not wasting possessions was going to be a huge factor in the game.”
2. Three-point defense: Auburn shot 40 percent from 3-point range (10 of 25). It’s the best outside shooting performance against Dayton this season. Dayton’s first five opponents combined to shoot 33.7 percent from long range.
3. Talented Auburn: The Tigers had five players in double digits. Two top-50 recruits led them in scoring. Mustapha Heron, a sophomore guard who ranked as high as 17th in the class of 2016, scored 21. Chuma Okeke, a freshman forward who ranked as high as 44th in the class of 2017, scored 15.
Auburn won despite scoring 20 points below its season average.
“It was a great win in a tremendous environment,” Pearl told AuburnTigers.com. “I told the team that these Dayton basketball fans are smart basketball fans — some have been here a long, long time — and they saw a really good Auburn team that played really hard, changed defenses and kept (the Flyers) off-balance.”
4. Foul trouble: Kostas Antetokounmpo picked up his first foul on a questionable charge call on Dayton’s first possession. He picked up his second foul 13 seconds later.
“That obviously changed our game plan, changed our rotation a little bit,” Grant said.
The Flyers had to decide whether to keep him out until the second half or put him back in the game and risk him getting his third foul. When Josh Cunningham and Matej Svoboda also picked up their second fouls in the first half, they didn’t have a choice.
“I thought we were fortunate to come (into halftime) without any of those guys picking up a third,” Grant said.
5. Short bench: Dayton hasn’t had its full nine-man rotation for a full game since the first-round loss to Hofstra in the Charleston Classic. That’s the only game it has had nine players because Matej Svoboda missed the season opener with an illness.
Landers returned to this game after missing the last two games with an ankle sprain. Xeyrius Williams missed his second straight game because of a back problem. Grant said his status remains day to day.
“We’re missing him a lot,” senior guard Darrell Davis said. “X is a big factor for our team, probably the X factor. We’re going to need him. Hopefully, he gets back soon.”
Dayton at Mississippi State, 8 p.m., SEC Network, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO