NORMAL, Ill. (AP) — Dayton coach Archie Miller waxed a bit philosophical after the 25th-ranked Flyer’s latest loss.
“We needed a wake-up call like this, and we got it,” Miller said after Dayton fell short in an 81-75 loss to Illinois State.
“No one likes it, but we needed it. We just weren’t right tonight,” he added. “Now we have a week to hit the practice floor and work on our game, get our feet back under us. No one wins or loses it all in November or December. We just need to get back to work.”
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The Flyers turned the ball over 18 times, compared to only 11 miscues for the Redbirds. However, the game was won at the free-throw line, with Illinois State hitting 21 of 31 free throws to Dayton’s 12 of 20.
Miller gave most of the credit to Illinois State.
“Being ranked is great, and it’s something everyone aspires to,” he said. “But teams, the good ones, they get ready for you when you come to town. They were ready for us tonight, and they outplayed us. It wasn’t really about us tonight. It was about them.”
Redbird Arena erupted at the buzzer, with hundreds of students and fans rushing their team.
Illinois State was in control throughout. Daishon Knight scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds to lead the Redbirds (5-4), while Bobby Hunter scored 16 and Zach Lofton added 13.
Vee Sanford scored 14 points for Dayton (7-2), while leading scorer Jordan Sibert added 13.
The emotional reaction after the win surprised and humbled Redbirds players and coaches. It was quite a departure for a team that had struggled throughout most of the early part of the season.
“I guess I wasn’t worried about our safety,” Illinois State coach Dan Muller.
Hunter added: “I looked up and thought I was going to get tackled or something. But it was very cool, a special moment for all of us.”
Illinois State jumped to a 6-0 lead and held a 39-32 advantage at the half. The Redbirds led by as many as 10 points in the first half, thanks to a tough defense that kept Dayton from getting good looks at the basket.
Both teams shot about 50 percent from the field, with the Redbirds hitting on 26 of 52 shots and the Flyers going 28 of 57.
Dayton grabbed the lead only once, 50-48, with 13 minutes left in the game. That came on a 3-pointer by Sanford during a flurry of 3s by both teams.
Illinois State was 8 for 20 from beyond the arc, while Dayton went 7 of 22.
Dayton will meet Central Michigan at home on Saturday, while Illinois State travels to Oakland on Dec. 16.