Turnovers, scoring drought in closing minutes bite Flyers in 76-67 loss to VCU

Junior guard Elijah Weaver finished with 10 points and 3 assists in Tuesday’s 76-67 loss to VCU. Photo courtesy of Griffin Quinn, Flyer News.

Peter Burtnett
Sports Editor

Turnovers plagued Dayton in Tuesday’s 76-67 loss to VCU at UD Arena, and the Flyers went the last 4:41 of game time without a single point, as they saw their record fall to 11-6 overall and 7-5 in A10 play. 

Both offenses started the game quickly and with intensity, but the Flyers shot more efficiently, opening up an early 10-2 lead. By the first media timeout with 14:37 remaining in the first half, the Flyers led 15-9, shooting 5-6 from the field (3-3 on threes). 

Both junior guard Elijah Weaver and freshman wing R.J. Blakney credited the quick start to the motivation gained from the 66-43 loss on Jan. 23.

“Second time around, it’s hard to beat a team twice,” Weaver said. “So that’s what we were on, like let’s just attack these dudes, let’s see what we can do and get going.”

“It’s just like having pride, you know, you don’t want to go out like that,” Blakney added. “Especially in the first game, we knew we were much better than what we put on the first game, so we went to the film and worked as hard as we can to correct those mistakes.”

The next seven minutes slowly eased into an avalanche of scoring, with the two teams exchanging threes, and every time VCU cut the Dayton lead to four, the Flyers responded with a three. 

One play epitomized the Flyers’ offensive ease for most of the first half: senior guard Jalen Crutcher took a long rebound, spun around a defender to get free around half court, fired a no-look pass to freshman forward R.J. Blakney, who flushed home a dunk to give the Flyers an eight-point lead. 

“Yeah, it was a great pass,” Blakney said. “I was just waiting, running the floor and he saw me and he hit me and I was like, okay, I gotta finish this.”

Soon after this play, the Flyers led at the under-8 media timeout (7:22) 31-24. The lead would hold steady for the next three minutes, before the Rams went on a 10-1 run over the last 4:18 of the first half to take a 41-39 lead into halftime. The Flyers went the last 4:55 of the half without a made field goal (0-6). 

At the break, junior guard Elijah Weaver led the Flyers with 8 points, and six other Flyers had at least 3 points on the board. However, Flyers were missing senior guard Ibi Watson for the last eight minutes of the half.

Both teams were even at 50 percent from the field, with the Rams making one more 3-pointer (7 to 6) and five more points off turnovers (10-5). 

To start the second half, the Flyers gave up an easy dunk off a turnover, but quickly responded with five straight points to get the lead back at 44-43. Both teams exchanged the lead, before a three from Rams sophomore guard Nah’Shon Hyland opened up a 50-46 lead four minutes into the half. 

By the under-12 media timeout, the Rams had stretched the lead to 58-52 with 11:43 remaining in the game. Both teams scored once before the Flyers called timeout down 60-54 with 9:53 remaining. 

Right out of the timeout, Watson knocked down a corner three to cut the deficit in half, but a jumper by VCU gave the Rams a 62-57 lead at the second half under-8 media timeout with 7:53 left in the game. 

Again on the first play after the timeout, Watson made a corner three with a hand in his face to cut the deficit to just two. A few possessions later, after VCU pushed the lead back up to four, Watson knocked down another three with a hand in his face, cutting the deficit to just one. 

With a chance to take the lead with five minutes to go, another turnover led to a Rams layup. Crutcher would respond with a scoop layup with 4:41 remaining in the game to cut the Rams’ lead to 68-67, but those would be the last points of the game for the Flyers, who turned the ball over on their next two possession, leading first to a three and then a layup by Hyland to push the Rams lead to 73-67, where it stood when the Flyers called timeout with 3:04 left.

Missing their last four shots and turning the ball over 5 times over the last six minutes of game time, the Flyers went cold at the wrong time, and even though the Rams weren’t particularly deadly from the field, they took advantage on the way to a 76-67 win.

“They’re [VCU] a difficult team to go against, with the pressure that they apply,” Flyers head coach Anthony Grant said. “Defensively, they force you to do things that you don’t normally have to do, and they take you out of your comfort zone… tonight it affected us, with the amount of turnovers that we had.”

The loss knocks the Flyers down to 11-6 on the season, 7-5 in A10 play with a match-up at home against 1-14 (0-9 A10) St. Joseph’s on Saturday at 2 p.m.

By the end of Tuesday’s game, the Flyers had turned the ball over 16 times, leading to 29 VCU points, compared to 8 points off turnovers for the Flyers.

“They’ve got great athleticism,” Grant said. “They’ve got guys that can guard the ball, a couple of guys that can do a good job of rim protecting, so you’ve got to be able to work for everything that you get.”

Grant mentioned 10 second-half turnovers, and said live-ball turnovers lead to “uncontested stuff on the other end,” which is a major reason for the high number of VCU points off turnovers.

“It’s hard to defend that,” Grant said. “When you turn the ball over and they can get (the ball) and get numbers on you in transition, I think they like the layups, they like the threes, I think that was the difference in the game tonight.”

Leading scorer Watson finished with 20 points on 7-10 shooting from the field (5-7 from three), and senior center Jordy Tshimanga finished with a double-double (14 points, 12 rebounds).

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