Dayton coach Archie Miller thought his team played as well as it had all season through most of the second half at UMass, an effort that left 6,096 fans squirming and opposing coach Derek Kellogg calling a timeout to slow the surge.
Having not won a game away from UD Arena since Dec. 5, the Flyers looked poised to perhaps end their road miseries.
Instead they dissolved like an Alka-Seltzer tablet in water Saturday afternoon in a 76-66 loss at the Mullins Center, squandering a shot at a season-changing victory.
Miller has seen a common thread in all of the Flyers’ Atlantic 10 drubbings.
“I don’t think right now we’re playing poor basketball. I thought we had our moments in this game when we looked really good. I also thought we shot ourselves in the foot about four times in a row under eight minutes. … I don’t think this team has the winning mettle, that toughness to figure it out for themselves,” he said.
“We’re just not physically and mentally tough enough to play on the road right now and find a way to win if we don’t have the lead. Getting stops, (giving up) second chances, getting a quality shot or making a good decision in the last four or five minutes, that really hasn’t been our m.o. all season.”
The Flyers shot 50 percent from the field, making 15-of-26 shots in the second half, and limited their turnovers to an acceptable 13. But they were out-scored 17-6 over the last 7:04.
They are 0-6 on the road in the A-10, their longest winless start in the league since 2005-06, and they’ve dropped seven straight away games overall.
Asked what his team can do to develop more fight, Miller said: “I’m not sure you develop toughness on Feb. 23 all of a sudden. I think that’s developed in a season-long approach — your chemistry, your togetherness, all that stuff along the way.
“We’re not a soft team. But there’s certain ways teams just understand they’re not going to lose the game. When it’s a tie game with four minutes to go, certain teams just don’t lose.”
The Flyers took a 60-59 lead on an inside bucket by Jalen Robinson with 8:08 left. He also was fouled but missed the free throw, and they didn’t score again over the pivotal next four minutes.
Vee Sanford had 14 points, Josh Benson 12 and Robinson 10 for the Flyers, who fell to 14-12 overall and 4-8 in the A-10.
Cady Lalanne had 22 points and 14 rebounds for UMass (17-9, 7-6), which had a 36-27 rebounding edge.
“They handled the glass. They did a good job with that,” said UD’s Dyshawn Pierre, who had a team-high eight rebounds. “Also, when we needed key stops — because we were right there the whole time — they would take maybe 30 seconds off the shot clock, and at the end of the shot clock, they’d make a big shot.”
Both coaches thought Lalanne, a 6-foot-10, 250-pound sophomore, was the difference. Miller popped him on the shoulder as they passed in the hallway afterward and offered a few compliments.
Physical inside players have caused the Flyers migraines all season.
“We were overmatched by one guy in particular. We weren’t able to keep him off the glass, and he finished around the basket and made free throws when he got fouled,” Miller said.
“I didn’t think all of them were crashing the glass and we got dominated. One guy had his way with us.”
Even when UMass was pulling away, Kellogg said: “In reality, I think we took one or two bad shots, and Cady cleaned them up. … Because of how we’re playing (with a fast tempo), we’re going to take some shots that maybe aren’t the best. When he’s able to clean them up and put them back in, that’s able to relieve a lot of pressure on the team.”
Dayton at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Ch. 7, 95.7, 1290