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Game No. 30 recap: La Salle 55, Dayton 53

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The Flyers wait to take the court Saturday. David Jablonski/Staff


In postgame interviews with me after a loss, the voices of Dayton players rise to barely a whisper. When Archie Miller says, “No one hurts more than us,” as he did Saturday, believe him.

The Flyers went out the way their fans hoped, winning three of their last four regular-season games when that seemed to be the consensus opinion on what they had to do after the Duquesne loss. On the other hand, they ended the regular season the way no one wanted: with a 55-53 loss (photos here) to ninth-place La Salle at Tom Gola Arena.

So dismayed by this defeat, one fan wrote me in all-caps on Twitter to say, “UNACCEPTABLE.” Obviously, he wasn’t taking the big view.

Dayton lost a chance to share the league title last night, but it just finished an improbable 23-7 regular season. A team that appeared dead in mid-December because off off-the-court developments ended up winning one more game than last year in the regular season. It won two more games than I predicted in November before Devon Scott and Jalen Robinson got kicked off the team, before Ryan Bass lost his season to injury and before Detwon Rogers faded from view.

All in all, there’s not much more you can say than, “Bravo.”

Here are five things to take from this one:


 

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A Dayton fan behind the bench Saturday. David Jablonski/Staff

1. Dayton would have gotten No. 2 seed no matter what.

Davidson routed Duquesne 107-78 Saturday night. That means if if Dayton had won at La Salle, it would have still earned the No. 2 seed in the A-10 tournament.

Here’s an excerpt from my game story. Once again, I work in the Flyer Faithful. I consider the fans a big part of the Dayton narrative. There’s little doubt they’ll hear their name called on Selection Sunday because of their perfect home record, and there’s little doubt they wouldn’t have won all those home games with almost 13,000 fans per game on average filling UD Arena.

A Dayton Flyers fan ran behind the bench several times and hoisted a sign during the second half Saturday at La Salle.

“Dayton Flyers > Philadelphia Flyers,” read the sign, which sported the logos of each team.

That will be hard to prove, unless the Philadelphia Flyers start playing basketball or Dayton starts a hockey team. The only thing that mattered Saturday was: “Explorers > Flyers.”

La Salle ruined Dayton’s fairy-tale ending to the regular season, pulling off a 55-53 upset at Tom Gola Arena. La Salle won by dominating the boards (40-27) and forcing 14 turnovers.

Dayton (23-7, 13-5) lost its chance to win a share of the Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season title. Davidson (23-6, 14-4) routed Duquesne 107-78 on Saturday night in Pittsburgh to win the title outright.

Dayton (23-7, 14-4) gets the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament and will play No. 7 seed St. Bonaventure or No. 10 seed St. Joseph’s in the quarterfinals at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. La Salle (16-15, 8-10) earned the No. 9 seed.

“No one hurts more than us right now,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “But take a deep breath. There’s a second season upon us. I’m not going to apologize for these guys at all. They should be proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish. We have a lot to play for.”


 

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Dyshawn Pierre on Saturday. David Jablonski/Staff

2. Rebounding was the difference.

Two of three players La Salle honored on Senior Day, Steve Zack and Jerrell Wright, combined to grab 24 of the team’s 40 rebounds. La Salle dominated the boards (40-27) and had an even bigger edge in offensive rebounding (14-4).

La Salle had four rebounds on one possession early in the game before scoring on a layup by Zack.

“We got our (butt) kicked on the glass,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “You can put it any way you want. It’s the first time in a long time we haven’t had that in order. Their size on both ends bothered us. They were able to hit the offensive glass. They were able to get second misses of their own. They were almost able to play volleyball up there.”


 

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Jordan Sibert on Saturday. David Jablonski/Staff

3. A slow start hurt the Flyers.

The Flyers scored nine points in the first 16 minutes. They shot 3 of 13 from the field and committed seven turnovers.

“The first 15 minutes in the first half, we didn’t do a good job,” Dayton forward Kendall Pollard said. “We didn’t come out strong. I think we had nine points with 15 minutes to go. That’s what I think did it. We didn’t come out with enough energy. We’ve just got to see what we can do in Brooklyn. We can’t do nothing about this loss.”


 

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Kendall Pollard on Saturday. David Jablonski/Staff

4. La Salle found its toughness.

The Explorers were fading fast coming into this game, but things can change fast. Witness what Dayton did at VCU one week after losing at Duquesne.

Here’s an excerpt from Philadelphia Inquirer’s coverage:

In the four losses leading up to his team’s regular-season finale Saturday against Dayton, La Salle coach John Giannini figured he knew what the missing element was.

“We’ve been playing tough but not as tough as some of the people we lost to,” Gianni said. “We’ve got to find the ‘er.’ We’ve been tough but we needed to be tougher. We needed to make those extra plays, we needed to consistently defend. Today we were able to do that against a really good team and beat them.”

La Salle (16-15, 8-10 A-10) used a strong stretch in the fourth quarter to upend Dayton (23-7, 13-5), 55-53, at Tom Gola Arena. With the victory, La Salle secured the ninth seed in the Atlantic Ten tournament, which begins Wednesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.


 

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The scene at Tom Gola Arena on Saturday. David Jablonski/Staff

5. A-10 tournament is wide open.

Davidson is the favorite, for sure, as the hottest team in the conference, but there are six or seven teams that could win it.

If the top seeds advance, Dayton would play No. 7 seed St. Bonaventure in the quarterfinals and No. 3 seed Rhode Island in the semifinals. Rhode Island would likely play George Washington in the other quarterfinal on Dayton’s side of the bracket.

The top half of the bracket could feature a third VCU-Richmond game in the quarterfinals. VCU, the league favorite in the preseason, ended up with the No. 5 seed, meaning it did not get a bye into the quarterfinals and will play Thursday.

Davidson has a tough game right away on Friday in the quarterfinals. It will play No. 8 seed UMass or No. 9 seed La Salle. As good as Davidson has been, on a neutral court, that game will be far from gimmee.


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