Two games ago, Dayton Flyers coach Anthony Grant talked about the goal of competing for one of the top four seeds in the Atlantic 10 tournament and getting a double bye.
Now Dayton has to worry about falling into the bottom four and having to win five games in five days to win the league’s automatic bid. With an 86-82 loss in double overtime Saturday at Massachusetts, Dayton (10-12, 4-6) has lost four times in the last five games. It’s the worst stretch of Grant’s first season.
On the bright side, Dayton overcame a poor first half and nearly won the game in regulation, and it’s hard to fault the starters who all played 40 or more minutes. On the other hand, Dayton’s bench has fallen so far out of favor, no reserves saw action in the second half or in the first overtime.
“I thought in the second half our guys really came together and they fought the way I expect our guys to fight and played with great pride,” Grant said. “That’s all you can ask for as a coach. The breaks didn’t go our way today. You don’t like the result. It hurts. I hurt for them right now. They fought their tails off. I thought we had opportunities. It is what it is. We’ve got to be able to pick ourselves up and get ready for the next one.”
The defeat leaves the Flyers tied for ninth in the Atlantic 10 with George Mason, La Salle and St. Joseph’s. Eight games remain. If Dayton wants to finish with a winning record or even at .500, it’s going to have to find a way to win away from UD Arena. It’s 1-6 on the road and 1-2 on a neutral court.
The Flyers are favored in five of their last eight games, according to KenPom.com. Here’s a glance at the matchups:
Wednesday, 7 p.m., home vs. Duquesne (15-9, 6-5): The Flyers lost 70-62 at Duquesne on Dec. 30, but this is a winnable game because it’s at home. After a 5-2 start in A-10 play, the Dukes have lost three of their last four.
Saturday, 6 p.m., at Virginia Commonwealth (14-9, 6-4): The Flyers beat the Rams 106-79 at UD Arena on Jan. 9. Don’t expect anything close to that to happen at the Siegel Center, though VCU has double-digit losses at home to Richmond and Rhode Island.
Feb. 14, 7 p.m., at George Mason (4-6, 10-13): This looked more like a potential win for Dayton until Saturday when the Patriots picked up a surprising 79-75 victory at Richmond.
Surprisingly, Dayton's starters didn't come close to the school record for minutes played in a game Saturday. That still belongs to @kpcflyers10 and Mike Kanieski. Let's hope they have recovered from that Providence game. pic.twitter.com/uZnLZt5jCE— David Jablonski (@DavidPJablonski) February 4, 2018
Feb. 17, 7 p.m., home vs. Fordham (7-15, 2-8): There are no gimmes for Dayton, but this one’s pretty close. The Flyers have won 14 straight games against Fordham.
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Feb. 20, 9 p.m., home vs. Saint Louis (13-11, 6-5): The Billikens beat Dayton 75-65 in Saint Louis on Jan. 27. They have won five of their last six games and have road wins at UMass and St. Joseph’s in that span.
Feb. 23, 7 p.m., at Rhode Island (19-3, 11-0): This is Dayton’s most difficult remaining game. The Rams beat Dayton 88-74 at UD Arena on Jan. 20. Their winning streak stands at 14 straight games.
Feb. 28, 7 p.m., at La Salle (10-13, 4-6): The Explorers are 4-1 at home in A-10 play, and Dayton has lost three straight games at Tom Gola Arena.
March 3, 3 p.m., home vs. George Washington (9-14, 2-8): The Colonials have lost eight of their last nine games and have fallen into a tie for last place with Fordham.
Duquesne at Dayton, 7 p.m., Spectrum Sports, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO