More often than not, Dayton Flyers coach Anthony Grant has blamed a lack of focus, energy and effort for defeats. That wasn’t the case Saturday after an 88-74 loss to Rhode Island at UD Arena.
“I thought our guys competed,” Grant said. “At the end of the day, Rhode Island was the better team today.”
Grant’s postgame comments sounded much like the quotes of opposing coaches who lost to Dayton’s veteran group a season ago. Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley lost twice to Dayton last season and watched the Flyers capture their first outright Atlantic 10 Conference title.
Now Hurley’s team (15-3 overall) leads the conference at 7-0. There are still 11 games remaining, but Rhode Island is a big favorite to win the A-10 regular-season title for the first time since the 1980-81 season when the conference was called the Eastern Athletic Association (or the Eastern 8).
Rhode Island won its 10th straight game Saturday, beating the Flyers at UD Arena for the second time in three seasons. The Rams also scored more points at UD Arena than any Dayton opponent since Jan. 5, 2005, when Duquesne beat Dayton 94-93 in double overtime. This was the most points Dayton has allowed in a non-overtime game at UD Arena since an 88-74 loss to La Salle on Feb. 27, 1999.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” Grant said. “They’re undefeated in the league. They’re led by a bunch of seniors that have been through a lot over the course of their careers and won a lot. They showed that. They played with poise. They kept the pressure on us. We were able to battle and fight, but give them credit.”
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Dayton (9-10, 3-4) will try to avoid the first three-game losing streak of the season when it plays second-place Davidson (10-7, 5-1) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at UD Arena.
The Flyers haven’t been under .500 this late in the season since 2006 when they were 9-10 through 19 games. That team finished 14-17. That was Dayton’s last losing season. In the past 11 seasons, it has never finished fewer than three games over .500, and it has won at least 20 games nine times.
To finish with a winning record, Dayton will have to overcome the odds. It’s favored to win five of its last 11 games, according to KenPom.com.
“Basketball is a game of habits,” Grant said, “and those habits are built through practice and consistency. That’s an area for us with our youth we’ve got to get better at.”
Davidson at Dayton, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO