In what has shaped up as a historic season, the Dayton Flyers are on a mission and showing no sign of crumbling to the pressure of being ranked No. 4 in the nation.
The Flyers (26-2, 15-0 Atlantic 10) have the nation’s longest winning streak at 17 games. They have set a school record for victories and have clinched a share of the A-10 regular-season title.
Despite the success, accolades and lofty ranking, coach Anthony Grant remains humble, knowing his team’s journey is far from over.
“To be in the position we are in now is a blessing,” Grant told the Dayton Daily News. “We appreciate having the chance to share the championship, but at the same time, we know we have more opportunities that are available to us. We want to make sure we take advantage of those opportunities.”
One of those opportunities comes Friday at home against Davidson.
The Wildcats (15-12, 9-6) will bring plenty of firepower. Davidson was picked to finish second, one spot ahead of Dayton, in the A-10 preseason poll. The head coaches and media predicted VCU would win the title.
Davidson leans on last season’s A-10 Player of the Year Jon Axel Gudmundsson and 2017-18 Rookie of the Year Kellan Grady. Grady leads the team in scoring at 16.8 points per game while Gudmundsson isn’t far behind at 14.0.
The last time the two teams met on Feb. 19, 2019, the Wildcats trailed 63-44 with 9:38 to play. Davidson stormed back with a 27-8 streak capped by a Grady steal and two-handed jam to tie the score 71-71 with 1:11 remaining.
Dayton squeaked by with a 74-73 win. Gudmundsson went off for 26 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Gudmundsson and Grady are itching for the rematch.
“Oh, hell yeah,” Gudmundsson told the Charlotte Observer when asked if he was ready to go. “It’s always fun to go play the top team in your division. We’ll come out hungry. We have a lot to show.”
“They’re talented and deep, but ultimately so are we,” Grady said. “We’ve gone through some growing pains this year, but we’re playing our best basketball right now. We get a chance to play in front of (13,000) people on ESPN against a top-five team in the country. That’s what you play for. We’re going in thinking we can win.”
The Flyers are a confident bunch as well, and rightfully so — they’ve taken everyone’s best shot and are still standing. Their only two losses have been in overtime. The Flyers beat 14 of their first 17 opponents by double digits. In their last 10 wins, only four have been by double digits.
Four players, led by redshirt sophomore Obi Toppin’s 19.7 points, average double figures. Jalen Crutcher (15.0) is shooting 41.6 percent from beyond the arc. Trey Landers (10.7) and Ibi Watson (10.1) are more than just complementary players. Both are capable of taking over and stepping up in the clutch.
In Tuesday’s win over George Mason, Watson came to the Flyers’ rescue. His nine points included a jumper in the paint that sealed the win.
“I thought (Watson) came out with great confidence in the second half,” Grant said. “He was able to see what was needed, and we needed a boost. The one he hit late was the biggest one of all. That was a big-time play.”
–Field Level Media