Dayton coach Archie Miller came away from a 79-73 defeat to Butler before 13,455 fans Saturday still feeling optimistic about his team despite four losses in six games.
He also emerged with healthy admiration for the Bulldogs:
“For whatever reason, we just didn’t have enough pop today. A lot of that goes to Butler. When you play them, they have an ability to sap your spirit at times with their play at both ends.
“I thought our kids tried to play hard. … I thought we did have some guts there in the second half to make a few runs. We just weren’t good enough against an excellent team to get the job done.
“Bottom line is, we have a lot of games left, and we’ll find a way to get back up off the mat.”
The Flyers won’t regain their footing, though, unless they figure out a way to keep some of their veterans from going AWOL.
Senior forward Josh Benson continued a season-long trend of getting into foul trouble. He sat out the last 16:42 of the first half with two. He fouled out with 2:24 to go with six points and two rebounds in 11 minutes.
He’s had at least three fouls in all but one game this year. He played just 22 minutes and scored two points in a loss at VCU on Wednesday.
Junior guard Vee Sanford (5-for-15) and junior wing Devin Oliver (2-for-12) struggled mightily from the field. And even senior point guard Kevin Dillard was neutralized.
Butler used the same strategy that was so effective for VCU on Wednesday, trapping him off high ball screens and forcing him away from the basket. Dillard, who had to burn a timeout once when he was in trouble, had 13 points, two below his average, and three assists and three turnovers.
“Vee’s an older guy, but he’s not,” said Miller, meaning Sanford sat for two years at Georgetown before transferring. “He’s going through his first season where he’s really had a role. He’s up and down. But Vee has good intentions, and he plays hard.
“I think some of our older guys are giving us a lot of positives. That’s what we have to focus on. We as a coaching staff and me as the coach have to find those problems and we have to figure out how to fix them.
“One thing right now is Josh Benson’s fouls. That’s one thing we have to really address. I know we’ve talked a lot about it, but maybe there’s something we can do as a staff to keep him on the floor more than 11 minutes. When you’re a fifth-year senior, and you’re playing at home in front of that type of crowd, I know Josh would like to be on the floor. We have to do a better job of helping him.”
Little resistance: The Flyers’ offense took 30 minutes to get untracked, but Miller was more perturbed with how his team played at times on defense.
“One thing Butler does a good job of during the course of a game is they really isolate certain people. They isolate you on drives. They isolate you in the post. And they isolate you on out-of-bounds plays when you’re the weak link. That’s why they’re such a great program,” he said.
Meeting challenge: The Flyers have faced two rugged rebounding teams in Butler and VCU to start Atlantic 10 play and won the battle of the boards convincingly, going plus-14 against the Bulldogs and plus-12 against the Rams.
“We were scared to death those two teams we were going to play would absolutely manhandle us on the glass,” Miller said. “Both games were absolutely one-sided in our favor.
“When you out-rebound Butler by 14 — I’d like to know what their record is when you out-rebound them by 14. We’re doing some good things.”
Long-range bomber: Freshman point guard Khari Price went into the game 10-for-26 (38.5 percent) on 3-pointers and 0-for-9 on 2-point tries.
He had 10 points, a career high, and finally notched his first field goal inside the arc. He was 2-of-3 on 3-pointers and 3-of-4 overall and made a pair of foul shots.