Dayton took a big step toward completing a perfect run through Atlantic 10 play by beating Virginia Commonwealth on Tuesday.
The next challenge is avoiding a letdown.
The No. 5 Flyers (24-2, 13-0 A-10) enter Saturday’s home game against Duquesne (18-7, 8-5) not only with 15 straight victories, but with a 3-2 record in Quadrant 1 games — a key determining factor for the NCAA Tournament selection committee — after their first win at VCU in five years.
With five games left in the regular season, the Flyers’ biggest obstacle appears to be at Rhode Island on March 4.
“It was amazing to get a win here at VCU,” Dayton guard Jalen Crutcher said after the big win. “Coming in, we knew it was going to be a hostile crowd. We knew it was going to be a dogfight from the beginning to the end.”
The Flyers are aiming to become the first team in A-10 history to go 18-0 in conference play.
“We definitely think we can do it,” Dayton guard Dwayne Cohill said. “But right now we’re just taking it one game at a time. We’ve got Duquesne on Saturday. We’re not really looking ahead of that.”
Dayton enters Saturday’s game with several noteworthy accomplishments within reach. The Flyers need one more win to tie the eighth-longest winning streak in conference history. They are also on pace to top the most wins in school history set by the 1951-52 team (28-5).
Dayton coach Anthony Grant said his team took a big step by defeating VCU before a sellout crowd.
“I’m proud of our guys that we were able to answer the bell every time we needed to,” Grant said. “We got hit with a lot of different types of adversity, and our guys persevered. I thought tonight was about resiliency and toughness, and we found a way to win.”
The Dukes are on the opposite end, suffering a tough loss to George Washington, in part because the Colonials relied on a 24-7 run to pull out a 70-67 road victory on Wednesday. The loss dropped the Dukes to fifth place in the conference.
Duquesne has three players averaging in double figures, led by junior forward Marcus Weathers’ 14.6 points-per-game average to go with 8.0 rebounds per game. Weathers finished with 19 points and seven rebounds against George Mason.
Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said the Dukes lost a big opportunity to move up the standings against George Washington. Now comes a difficult stretch of four games in the next 11 days, including three on the road.
“It’s a long year and it’s February, but you can’t make excuses because everybody feels the same way,” Dambrot said. “We’re close to being upper echelon, and have shown we have been competitive. When you are on the brink, come on … We’ve shown at times we are good enough. We’ve made progress. The toughest thing for us is consistency.”
–Field Level Media