A little kid sitting in the front row on the baseline near the Dayton bench heckled the Flyers all night. His voice sounded like nails on a chalkboard. To their credit, the players ignored him as best they could, though it was like trying to tune out Metallica if the band had started playing a set in your kitchen.
The worst part about the kid’s taunts is he was mostly right. In an 88-76 loss to Rhode Island on Saturday at the Ryan Center, the Flyers just weren’t good.
The team that won two out of three games in Maui, the team that vaulted into the top 25 for a week, the team that beat an Ole Miss team that is just a game out of first place in the Southeastern Conference — that team has vanished. The new Flyers would have to worry about making the Atlantic 10 tournament field — much less the Big Dance — if every team in the A-10 didn’t get to play in Brooklyn in March.
The Flyers lost their third straight game and fell to 13-7 and 1-4 in the A-10. They’re tied for 10th place.
Adding insult to injury, a guy named Xavier — that’s senior guard Xavier Munford, who beat the Flyers last season on a last-second 3-pointer — led the Rams with 27 points on a day UD’s former rival, the Xavier Musketeers, were playing just up the road in Providence.
“This is gut-check time for us right now,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “It’s pride. For whatever reason right now, we’re not handling our business the right way. Sometimes you get into these modes during the season. I’ve been around a lot of teams where early on things go well and then in the middle they don’t and then they come back.”
From an RPI standpoint, this was the worst loss of the season for the Flyers. Rhode Island (11-10, 2-4) is 143rd in the RPI, according to BBState.com. Illinois State, the only other team outside the top 100 in the RPI to beat the Flyers, is 107th. Dayton is 60th.
The Flyers’ non-conference resume is still strong enough to make them an NCAA tournament contender, but their play in the A-10 is quickly erasing their early-season accomplishments. It won’t get easier anytime soon, either. This week’s opponents, Saint Joseph’s (13-6, 3-2) and George Washington (16-3, 4-1), would seem to be much better than Rhode Island, and the Rams dominated Dayton in many ways.
Rhode Island shot 62.5 percent, the best any opponent has done this season against the Flyers. None of the Flyers’ previous opponents had shot better than 52 percent. A 43.2-percent shooting team this season, Rhode Island had topped 50 percent only once before this game.
The Rams hit 7-of-9 shots in the first five minutes to build a 15-10 lead, and led the rest of the way. Dayton never got closer than four points.
“Our game plan coming in was they’re a good 3-point shooting team,” Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley said. “They’re a well-rounded offensive team. We wanted to do a good job of taking away the 3-point shot. We knew we had to score because they’re going to score, because they’re really, really talented and deep.
“I thought we came out with a great sense of desperation. We knew both programs would be coming in with one conference win and getting that second one (would be important).”
Saint Joseph’s at Dayton, 7 p.m. Wednesday, WHIO Ch. 7, 1290, 95.7