By: Katie Obear – Staff Writer
The University of Dayton men’s basketball team suffered a close loss against the No. 17 Saint Mary’s Gaels on Saturday afternoon. After being down by as many as 20 points in the second half, the Flyers gritted their way back into the game, but ultimately lost 61-57.
This was the team’s first loss of the season, after having defeated Austin Peay and Alabama.
“We knew regardless of who was on our team that this was going to be an unbelievable challenge for us this early in the season,” said head coach Archie Miller.
Dayton was playing its first game this year without 6-foot-7 forward Josh Cunningham, who underwent surgery on torn ligaments he suffered during the win at Alabama. In addition, senior forward Kendall Pollard remains sidelined with a thigh contusion.
While the game ended in a four-point loss to the Gaels, Flyer fans stayed vigilant until the final buzzer.
“It shows how we have to play from the start of the game and can’t wait until the 35th minute into the game to play,” said senior guard Scoochie Smith. “We play teams like that, it’s not going to be easy to win. We just have to play the full 40 minutes.”
With five minutes remaining in the game, every Flyer fan was up out of their seats, screaming and cheering the team on in one last hope of a comeback.
UD tried to recover during those final minutes of play, but a combination of missed shots and lack of time prevented them from every tying up Saint Mary’s.
“Lack of taking care of the ball continues to really hurt us,” said Miller. “We didn’t make enough shots today. You know, if you go back two games, we are making shots. And I thought we had some good looks it just didn’t go in.”
Ranked 17th in the nation, Saint Mary’s is Dayton’s toughest non-conference opponent on paper currently. The game very easily could have had a different flavor had Cunningham and Pollard been in the lineup.
Miller commented on Cunningham’s condition after the game.
“The great thing about Josh’s situation now is in 3 months he is going to be full going, clear, and he’s going to be himself again,” said Miller. “I’m also very disappointed for him because he has worked so hard to put himself in this situation to get to the court, you hurt for guys like him because he is such a good kid and teammate.”
Senior guards Charles Cooke and Scoochie Smith led Dayton’s offense all afternoon. The two combined scored 36 of the 57 points during the game,.
Saint Mary’s was consistent in their defense and offense, relying on their three point shots to help them continue to drive up the score.
The team will be traveling to Anaheim, Calif. next to play Nebraska on Thanksgiving Day. Nebraska is 3-0 to start their season.
Photo by Christian Cubacub/Staff Photographer