No. 24 VCU wore black shooting shirts during warm-ups with one word stitched across the back: “Havoc.” And Dayton doesn’t have to be told why that’s become the Rams’ team motto.
Facing suffocating full-court pressure, the Flyers committed an untidy 26 turnovers and dropped their Atlantic 10 opener, 74-62, before a boisterous sellout crowd of 7,693 Wednesday.
UD rebounded with fury (finishing with a 39-27 edge), knocked down 3-pointers (9-for-21) and took away the Rams’ 3-point attack, one of their chief weapons (5-for-20). But the turnover travails were too much to overcome.
“Our team is accustomed to playing hard. We’re not always perfect. But at the end of the day, we were here to battle,” UD coach Archie Miller said. “If we were a little more clean with the turnovers and maybe hit the front end of some 1-and-1’s late in the second half to get that thing from nine or seven to six or four, the game’s a little bit different.
“But our guys understand right now, particularly in conference play, the details and game plan have to stay intact. I thought our kids stuck with the game plan, we gave great effort, we were good on the backboard, but we just turned it over too many times.”
Trailing 47-38 early in the second half, UD (10-5) put together a flurry to make it a one-point game as Kevin Dillard and Dyshawn Pierre hit back-to-back 3-pointers.
But with just under 15 minutes to go, the Flyers committed nine turnovers in a 14-possession span as the long and athletic Rams raced to a 14-point lead.
VCU (13-3), shooting 66.9 percent from the foul line this season, made 19-of-21.
Vee Sanford and Dillard — two of the top-five free throw shooters in the A-10 — missed 1-and-1’s 87 seconds apart in the second half as UD went 11-for-16.
Dillard had 17 points, 15 in the second half, but the senior point guard had seven turnovers with just one assist. Devin Oliver had a game-high 11 rebounds and nine points.
Sophomore guard Treveon Graham had 15 of his game-high 24 points in the first half for VCU. Sophomore guard Briante Weber had nine of the Rams’ 15 steals. They scored 30 points off turnovers.
“It was tough to go against,” Dillard said of the VCU pressure. “We had a lot of turnovers. They get a lot of credit for their defense. Some were careless turnovers, some they forced. We’ve just got to get to work.”
The Flyers’ 12 turnovers in the first 20 minutes were the most in a half this year, but they set a new season high with 14 after halftime.
Butler at Dayton, 2 p.m. Saturday, NBC Sports Network Ch. 323 and 1323, 95.7, 1290