By HAL McCOY
It is easier to figure out a Rubik’s Cube than it is to figure out this season’s University of Dayton basketball team.
Just four days after playing one of the most perfect games in more than a decade, scoring 106 points Friday against Virginia Commonwealth, the Flyers flew into Philadelphia Wednesday and played with the emotion, the confidence and the aggressiveness of Benjamin Franklin’s kite.
Of course, when UD plays Saint Joseph’s in Hagan Arena, the Hawks could use three cheerleaders, a team manager and the bus driver and still beat the Flyers.
This time it was Saint Joseph’s 81, Dayton 65 — and it wasn’t that close. It was Dayton’s ninth straight loss in Hagan Arena.
This was a season that Flyers could have easily eradicated that negative streak. The Hawks were without two of their best players and came into the game 7-and-9, 2-and-3 in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
But the Hawks threw up an impenetrable zone defense that completely disrupted Dayton’s offense as they chose to pass the ball around the perimeter and throw up ill-advised threes.
The Flyers might be three-happy at the moment. After setting a school record with 17 threes again VCU, they came out casting against the Hawks, taking 22 in the first half and 38 for the game, making only 13.
Meanwhile, St. Joseph’s came into the game as one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country (30 per cent), but hit 10 of 26 (38 per cent).
It began swimmingly for the Flyers. They made four of their first five threes, three by Jalen Crutcher, to sprint to a 12-10 lead.
Then they drowned.
With the score 20-20, the Flyers missed six straight shots and fell behind, 29-20. When they were outscored 6-1 in the final few minutes of the first half they fell behind, 42-30.
And it only got worse in the second half as St. Joseph’s constructed a 21-point lead, 63-42, early in the second half.
The only Flyer to show up armed and dangerous was Crutcher, who scored 21 points. Darrell Davis scored 11 in the first half and zero in the second half. Trey Landers, usually the ignition switch for the Flyers, did not score at all.
Crutcher was 8 for 13 from the field, 7 for 10 from three. Darrell Davis was 4 for 9, 2 for 7 from three. Jordan Davis was 2 for 8, 2 for 6 from three en route to seven points. Landers was 0 for 6, 0 for 4 from three and 0 for 3 from the foul line.
Meanwhile, Saint Joseph’s had five players in double figures, led by their two best players — James Demery with 19 and Shavar Newkirk with 18. While the Flyers were in a funk, St. Joe’s freshman Taylor Funk contributed and Nick Robinson came off the bench to add 13.
Starter Pierfrancesco Oliva did not score, but he snagged 15 rebounds as the Hawks were beasts on the boards, outgrabbing the Flyers 43-32.
Nearly all the Hawks shot better than 50 per cent — Demery 7 for 11, Newkirk (playing with a bad knee) 6 for 10, dunk 6 for 11 and Robinson 5 for 9.
UD Coach Anthony Grant told WHIO’s Larry Hansgen after the game that UD’s abandonment of defense was the determining factor.
“We didn’t get it done defensively,” said Grant, after his Flyers fell to 9-and-9 and 3-and-3 in the A-10. “Right from the jump we tried to trade baskets and rely on our offense.
“In the first half they shot 50 per cent from the field and 41 per cent from three,” he added. “We didn’t defend, we didn’t play with the energy and effort that we have to play with. We don’t have that margin for error. When we don’t do that, we’re not a very good basketball team and we get exposed.”
The Flyers have a tall assignment Saturday afternoon in UD Arena when they play Rhode Island, the A-10’s first place team with a 6-and-0 record.