By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer
DAYTON, Ohio - There was improvement, but the losing continued for Xavier University Saturday at Dayton.
Not for the first time this season Xavier put itself in position to win in the second half, only to watch its opponent execute down the stretch.
This time, Dayton won 74-67 by overcoming a nine-point deficit and outscoring Xavier 10-3 in the final three minutes in front of 13,409 at UD Arena.
Dayton (17-3, 7-0 Atlantic 10) maintained its first-place position in the Atlantic 10 West, while Xavier fell deeper into last place at 2-5 in the league and 10-9 overall.
Xavier's Justin Cage tries to get by Dayton's Sean Finn and Keith Waleskowski in the first half.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
Its losing streak now at three games and its postseason chances fading with every loss, Xavier must regroup by Tuesday for the Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout against No. 8 Cincinnati, which lost Saturday to Charlotte.
"It's always a big one, but it's even bigger now, because we lost five of our last six," senior guard Lionel Chalmers said of the looming matchup against UC. "It's definitely a big one."
Had it closed strong against Dayton, Xavier would be in a better position for Tuesday's game. On Saturday, the Musketeers showed more intensity, ran their offense and found open shots, and held a 43-34 lead early in the second half.
They still led 49-40 with 13:43 to play but made just one shot and failed to stop Dayton when possessions mattered most in the last three minutes. The Flyers took control with 1:38 remaining, thanks to the most controversial call of the game.
With his team leading 66-64, Dayton senior Keith Waleskowski took a pass from Ramod Marshall and went in for a seemingly uncontested layup, when Anthony Myles slid in position to take a charge.
The players collided, the ball fell through the hoop, and Myles was whistled for a blocking foul. Waleskowski hit the free throw and Dayton led 69-64.
Xavier coach Thad Matta, who praised Myles' effort on the play, couldn't hide his sarcasm toward the officials.
"I don't know what Myles was thinking trying to take a charge on that play," Matta said. "That was an 'and-one.' ... What a dumb play on his part. Obviously, he wasn't where he needed to be. ... I'm being facetious there. But that was a big play in the game, a huge play."
Romain Sato made a 3-pointer on Xavier's subsequent possession, but Dayton's Marshall answered with a running bank shot with 53 seconds left. Xavier did not score again.
The Musketeers struggled to defend Dayton down low. Dayton's interior players, Sean Finn, James Cripe and Waleskowski, combined to score 41 points on 17-of-22 shooting.
As a team, Dayton shot 58 percent, led by Marshall, who scored 21 points with six assists and won the Blackburn/McCafferty MVP Award.
Sato led Xavier with 21 points and made four of eight 3-pointers. Point guard Dedrick Finn scored 14 points and distributed six assists with one turnover.
Matta was encouraged by Xavier's effort after he had challenged the players in recent practices to improve their competitiveness.
"It's just you're tired of losing," Matta said. "And the main thing we have to do as a staff and a team is figure out how to get it corrected."
Team rebounds - 2.
Team rebounds - 0.
3-pointers - XU 10-31 (Doellman 2-8, Chalmers 2-6, Sato 4-8, Finn 2-7, Cage 0-2), UD 3-8 (Bennett 0-1, Waleskowski 1-1, Marshall 2-4, Jones 0-1, Williams 0-1). Technicals - None. Officials - Scagliotta, DeMayo, Sterators. Attendance - 13,409.
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