Archie Miller says ‘mental fatigue’ played part in loss to GW

George Washington's Yuta Watanabe celebrates after a basket against Dayton in the second half on March 4, 2017, at the Smith Center in Washington, D.C.
Caption
George Washington's Yuta Watanabe celebrates after a basket against Dayton in the second half on March 4, 2017, at the Smith Center in Washington, D.C.

Flyers fall behind 16-1 and never recover in regular-season finale

Archie Miller saw it coming. Anyone who watches college basketball — or any sport — saw it coming.

The Dayton Flyers recorded their biggest victory of the season Wednesday, clinching their first outright Atlantic 10 title with a 79-72 victory against Virginia Commonwealth on the road. Three days later, they looked like a different team, and they closed the regular season with one of their most disappointing performances, losing 87-81 to George Washington at the Smith Center on Saturday.

This was a trap game for an emotionally-spent team, and the Flyers fell right into the trap. The Colonials hit their first nine shots, built a 16-1 lead and never trailed.

“I saw it coming like a big boulder rolling down the hill,” Miller said. “When you have that much emotion and that much going on, we had to get grounded again, and it was tough. It’s not an excuse, but it’s tough. It was very difficult for us. A lot of it was mental fatigue, not lack of focus.”

Dayton (24-6, 15-3) gets a six-day break before playing in the A-10 tournament at noon Friday. The Flyers will be the No. 1 seed, and they will play No. 8 seed La Salle or No. 9 seed Davidson.

The Flyers will have to get their defense back on track. Their performance in the first half against George Washington was the continuation of a trend. Davidson shot 49.2 percent against Dayton two games ago. VCU scored at will at the rim Wednesday.

Dayton got back into the game, trimming the deficit 74-68 with 4:15 to play, but it could never complete the comeback.

“We came back and made a couple runs in the game, but we just weren’t good enough,” Miller said. “Our defense right now isn’t where it was. If we have any hope of reorganizing ourselves, hopefully this disappointing finish can get us focused.”

Kendall Pollard led Dayton with 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting. He struggled from the free-throw line, however, making 8 of 15.

Xeyrius Williams scored 17 points and made 5 of 8 3-pointers. He hit three 3-pointers in quick succession to give Dayton a ray of hope in the second half.

Charles Cooke and Scoochie Smith each scored 10. Neither was anywhere near their best. They each had four turnovers.

After a seven-game run in which they shot at least 68.9 percent, the Flyers came back to earth at the line, making 17 of 31 (54.8 percent).

The Colonials (18-13, 10-8), who closed the regular season on a five-game winning streak, shot 47.4 percent from the field and 50 percent (13 of 26) from 3-point range. Senior Tyler Cavanaugh was the star, scoring 30 points on Senior Night and making 6 of 8 3-pointers.

Cavanaugh had seven points in the 16-1 run to open the game. That lead ballooned to 21-5 and then 28-7 before Dayton started getting some stops and making some shots.

It didn’t seem as if there was much Dayton could do to stop the Colonials in those opening minutes.

“You can guard them a lot better,” Miller said. “You have to play a lot harder after the first one goes in, and after the second or third one goes in, you’ve got to really strap it on. I thought in the first four or five or six minutes in the first half, we just weren’t there.”


FRIDAY’S GAME

Dayton vs. Davidson/La Salle in A-10 quarterfinals, noon, NBC Sports Network, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO

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