Dayton knocks off No. 17 Saint Louis 72-67

ST. LOUIS (AP) Jim Crews did not seem to mind Saint Louis backing into a share of its second straight Atlantic 10 title and the top seed in the conference tournament.

”Hey, we play for championships, so I’m delighted,” the coach of the 17th-ranked Billikens said after a 72-67 loss to Dayton in the home finale Wednesday night. ”Our kids gave it great effort.

”It’s a long season. For them to win back-to-back championships, that’s pretty impressive.”

Long faces during a low-key post-game ceremony for the five senior starters, with Crews doing most of the talking, showed the hurt. The Billikens (25-5, 12-3 Atlantic 10) cracked the Top 10 for the first time since 1964-65 a few weeks ago, but now have lost three straight for the first time since February 2011.

”Not the way we wanted to get to that point,” forward Dwayne Evans said. ”We just didn’t play well enough to win, but I guess that’s good going forward.”

Reserve Jalen Robinson scored all 10 of his points in the second half, including two key 3-pointers in the put-away run, to key Dayton’s upset.

”We’re not worried about the bubble,” Flyers coach Archie Miller said. ”I think the great thing about this team is we’ve eliminated all the noise.”

The Billikens clinched at least a tie for the title with about 2 minutes remaining when George Washington wrapped up a 76-71 victory over Saint Joseph’s.

Jordan Sibert had 14 points, including three 3-pointers, for the Flyers (21-9, 9-6) while Dyshawn Pierre had 11 points and Devin Oliver had nine points and nine rebounds.

Oliver, a senior, called it a career highlight.

”I would say so,” he said. ”Just the implications going into the end of the season and whatever else we need to do, it’s definitely the biggest win.”

Dayton was perfect at the free throw line in the second half, going 11 for 11, while Saint Louis was 8 for 15.

Saint Louis won a school-record 19 straight before getting upset by Duquesne at home last week and then lost at VCU on Saturday.

”We’re getting every team’s best shot,” Evans said. ”We know we need to pick it up and get after it, but I wouldn’t say it’s a slump by any means.”

Evans had 18 points and nine rebounds and Mike McCall Jr. added 10 points for Saint Louis, which wraps up the regular season Sunday at Massachusetts.

”Wow, yeah we definitely need to get a win and build some momentum,” Evans said. ”We still have a chance to win the conference outright and that’s been our goal all season.”

Jordair Jett, who had been averaging 17.6 points in conference play, was held to nine points while hindered by a knee injury that kept him off the court for a few minutes in the first half.

”I didn’t think he was up to full speed,” Crews said.

Dayton began celebrating its second victory over a Top 25 team near the end of a 16-2 run that made it 67-59 lead with 3:38 to play. Robinson had two 3-pointers, Siebert had five points and Oliver capped the run with a three-point play.

Saint Louis cut the deficit to 68-67 when Evans scored in the lane with 33 seconds to go. Khari Price and Sibert were 4 for 4 at the free throw line the rest of the way and Loe missed a 3-pointer with a chance to tie it with 18 seconds left.

This was Dayton’s second win over a ranked team this season. The Flyers beat then-No. 11 Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational in November.

Saint Louis was 5 for 10 from 3-point range after Jake Barnett connected in the opening minute of the second half for a 42-32 lead – the largest of the game. But the Billikens made only one of their last 12 from long distance.

The school band played the New Zealand national anthem for Loe, who then scored the first five points of the game in the opening minute. He’s part of the school’s all-time winningest class with 91 victories.