Kyle Davis stood with several teammates after the game Saturday in a tunnel a couple of paces from the court at the United Center. He silently studied his phone. His Chicago family — his parents, brothers, cousins — had left the arena just after the Dayton Flyers lost 67-64 to Northwestern because it had started to snow outside.
That didn’t bother Davis because he’ll see them all next week for Christmas. Dayton’s senior guard and co-captain always looks on the bright side. For one minute after Dayton’s third loss, he was asked to do that.
“Take away the disappointment of tonight,” a reporter asked. “What did it feel like to step on that court for the first time?”
“It felt great walking out on the court,” Davis said. “Hearing my name being called was something special. A lot of memories have been made in there. Even taking the loss tonight, it’s still a memory for me. I got to step out and play in the United Center in front of all my family and friends, all my supporters, all the Dayton Flyers supporters. It just felt great.”
Thousands of Dayton fans packed the United Center. They far outnumbered the fans from nearby Northwestern and even the fans of the teams playing in the second game, Illinois and BYU. Many UD fans braved a drive on icy roads to get to the Windy City. Davis doesn’t take them for granted.
“I know it’s all going to come to an end for me soon,” Davis said. “It’s always a great feeling. I get goosebumps anytime I step on the court anywhere — away, home.”
Having said that, this will go down as one of the biggest single-game disappointments in the careers of Davis and his fellow senior from Chicago, Kendall Pollard. Both were playing in their hometown for the first time since their high school careers ended.
The Flyers (7-3) saw their five-game winning streak end. The loss also deals a blow to their NCAA tournament hopes. There’s a long way to go and plenty of ways Dayton can play its way into the field in March for the fourth straight season, but their non-conference resume lacks the impressive victories of the past three seasons, and they have no more chances to get that victory in their last two games before conference play begins.
Dayton has only itself to blame because it could have won any of three games it lost to Saint Mary’s, Nebraska and now Northwestern. All three games followed the same pattern: big early deficit, frantic comeback and, in the end, a close defeat. The total margin of those three games was nine points.
“It’s always a big frustration when you do the same thing over and over again,” Davis said. “Having the same start-off point, going down 20 points (against Saint Mary’s), going down 14 (against Nebraska) and 24 tonight, it’s kind of hard. Hopefully, we get that together and turn that around.”
Dayton trailed 11-0 and then 36-12 and 40-17 at halftime. The Flyers made 4 of 28 field goals in the first half (14.3 percent) and didn’t make a single field goal between the 10:59 and 1:16 marks.
Dayton coach Archie Miller said the trend of poor play in the first half has to stop.
“Especially in some of our more marquee games against some of the better teams we’ve played, we have not been able to go from first half into halftime without some type of giant hole,” Miller said. “To our guys’ credit, I think you can see some fight, but we have to be more consistent. We have to be better. In particular, in most of those games where we’ve been bad, we’ve gotten bullied. We’ve gotten manhandled. Whether it be the glass or our inability to run good offense, we just have not been tough-minded against some of the teams that we’ve needed to be. It’s surprising, but at the same time, it’s something that you’ve got to keep learning lessons and getting better.”
Scoochie Smith led the Flyers with 18 points. Charles Cooke scored 12. Sam Miller and Xeyrius Williams scored 9 and 8, respectively.
Dayton committed only nine turnovers but was out-rebounded 44-30. It shot 51.9 percent in the second half but got no closer than the final score.
“We’re going to remember coming out not strong, playing lazy,” Davis said. “It’s a teaching point for us to suit up and also come out ready every game.”
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