Just a couple days after George Washington suffered a surprising loss at Saint Louis, another expected contender in the Atlantic 10 took a loss that won’t look very good on their résumé.
No. 25 Dayton lost in Atlantic 10 play for the first time this season, as they shot just 30.9 percent from the field in a 61-57 loss at La Salle. Hit hard by injuries the Explorers played just six players, but Dr. John Giannini’s team was able to control tempo while also forcing the Flyers to make tough shots. And as the numbers show Dayton was unable to do so, with Charles Cooke being the exception.
Cooke scored a game-high 21 points on 7-for-16 shooting, with his teammates combining to shoot 10-for-39 on the day. Add in 14 turnovers, and Dayton wound up losing a game many expected them to win comfortably going in.
This was Dayton’s second consecutive game without injured forward Kendall Pollard (sprained Achilles tendon), but unlike their won over UMass the Flyers ran into a team ready and willing to compete. Finding quality looks didn’t come as easily Saturday afternoon, with Dayton scoring just 12 points in the paint and 25 of their 55 field goal attempts being three-pointers.
For a team with just one player shooting better than 36 percent from three (Cooke, 43.7 percent), that’s too high of a ratio to have (36.8 percent of their shots this season have been three-pointers).
The turnovers shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Dayton’s lost the ball on 20.6 percent of their possessions per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. But in many games the Flyers were able to get away with that, with their combination of depth and a solid defense making up for the turnover issues. That wasn’t the case at La Salle, with the Explorers scoring 15 points off of turnovers and the visitors’ shots not falling even when they produced second-chance opportunities (20 offensive rebounds, 11 second chance points).
In what should be a tight race in the Atlantic 10, taking care of business in games you’re expected to win will have a major impact on who wins the league. Dayton was unable to do so Saturday, resulting in their first conference loss of the season.