Alabama’s men’s basketball team suffered its second consecutive loss of the season at the hands of the Dayton Flyers on Wednesday night in Coleman Coliseum. The Tide (6-2) fell 81-76 to Dayton (6-2), but the scoreboard did not reflect the game that was played on the hardwood.
“I’ve got to give all of the credit to Dayton tonight,” head coach Anthony Grant said. “They came out right from the jump and set the tone of the game. Obviously from a defensive standpoint we had no answers for what they were able to do.”
The Flyers jumped out to an early lead on the Tide that should have steadily increased over the course of the game, but Alabama’s success at the free-throw line kept its head above water.
The Tide shot 32 free throws, as opposed to only three in its last game against Cincinnati. It converted almost 91 percent of its attempts at the line and stayed in the game because of its ability to generate fouls.
But Dayton was on fire from the field on Wednesday. The Flyers hit 26-53 (49.1 percent) of its shots from the floor, and its key players excelled in Tuscaloosa. Senior guard Kevin Dillard led all scorers with 25 points and six assists. Senior forward Josh Benson tallied 21 points and six rebounds.
Sophomore guard Rodney Cooper praised Dillard for his impressive performance and leadership.
“Being a veteran makes him a really good point guard,” Cooper said. “He’s the head of the snake, and he basically ran the show.”
The Tide’s usual, suffocating defense watched Dayton maneuver the floor with ease most of the night, and Cooper took notice of the breakdowns on defense.
“They were breaking the press and beating us down the court most of the time,” he said. “They were also playing with more passion than we were.”
Alabama was shorthanded with only eight players seeing the floor, as injuries to Carl Engstrom and Andrew Steele affected the Tide’s depth. On top of all of that, junior center Moussa Gueye fell awkwardly to the court with 7:32 left in the second half after he attempted to block a shot.
Grant said he does not know the extent of Gueye’s injury, but he thought he could have played him if he needed to. However, he wasn’t pleased with his healthy players’ lackluster outing.
“We weren’t able to get any stops in the second half, and at the 11-minute mark they were shooting 75 percent from the field,” Grant said. “So give them credit, they had an answer for everything that we threw at them today. They played extremely well and as a basketball team, right now we have to do some soul searching and understand what it takes to win competitive games like this against quality teams.”
Alabama recorded eight turnovers and blocked seven shots, but its poor shooting night resulted in defeat. The Tide shot just 37 percent (20-54) from the floor.
Trevor Lacey led the Tide with 16 points, while Levi Randolph, Trevor Releford and Cooper all managed to crack double digits.
“I don’t think a team is going to score 81 points on Alabama in a very long time after this game,” Dayton head coach Archie Miller.
Alabama will have the next 10 days off because of final exams. The Tide’s next game will be Saturday, Dec. 15 when it goes on the road to face VCU.