You've got to give Dayton credit.
Just when it seemed the Flyers had exhausted every possible method of giving away close games, they found a new, highly creative way to blow Friday's must-win Atlantic 10 quarterfinal against Xavier.
Suddenly facing a two-point deficit with 36.5 seconds remaining after leading by as many as 15 in the second half, Dayton's Rob Lowery picked up his dribble just over the mid-court line and called timeout. That's when Xavier's Terrell Holloway slapped the ball out of Lowery's hands after a whistle blew, angering the Dayton senior enough that he retaliated with an open-handed swipe at the Musketeers guard.
Referee Brent Hampton hit Lowery with a technical. Holloway hit four straight free throws. And with that, Dayton's most exasperating loss in a season riddled with them was in the books.
Fans could argue that Holloway should have gotten the technical for slapping the ball away or that referees should have shown restraint in such a crucial situation, but in reality this game was a microcosm of the Flyers' disappointing season. Preseason Atlantic 10 favorite Dayton started the year strong then fizzled near the end, ultimately falling maybe a victory or two short of the NCAA tournament by losing its final nine games decided by five points or less.
It looked as though this one might not be in doubt in the final minutes until Xavier launched its comeback bid. The resilient, never-say-die Musketeers outscored the Flyers 23-5 after falling behind 61-46, getting back to stop their potent fast break and keeping their guards out of the lane to turn Dayton into a jump-shooting team.
There was nobody more distraught in the Dayton locker room than Lowery, which was certainly understandable considering what was at stake.
"I cost us the game, that's how I feel," he told the Dayton Daily News.
In fairness, he had a lot of help. But he did deliver the knockout punch.