Dayton’s climb up the national rankings is bringing newfound attention on the road for its program.
The No. 6 Flyers are drawing big crowds on the road, with their next battle coming Saturday at Massachusetts in Atlantic 10 Conference action.
The Flyers (22-2, 11-0) are the highest-ranked opponent to play at UMass since No. 2 Saint Joseph’s on Feb. 25, 2004.
The Flyers defeated UMass, 88-60, on Jan. 11 at Dayton.
Dayton enters the conference showdown as one of the hottest teams in the country. With a 13-game winning streak and a 5-0 mark in road games this season, the Flyers have momentum on their side.
Obi Toppin is becoming a must-see player in college basketball.
The high-flying Toppin scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while adding three dunks to raise his season total to 80 in the win over Rhode Island on Tuesday. The Flyers are off to one of their best starts in program history, winning 22 of their first 24 games for the first time since 1957-58.
Toppin said the Flyers had to make a statement against the Rams.
“We knew they were the No. 2 (team) in the conference, and we had to put a stamp on what we have going on,” Toppin said.
Dayton coach Anthony Grant, who notched his 250th career victory Tuesday, said his team must learn to keep its emotions in check as the season creeps closer to the NCAA Tournament. Seven technicals were handed out in the victory over Rhode Island, with Dayton’s bench, Rodney Chatman and Trey Landers receiving techs.
“You hate to see a game with two really good teams marred by the number of technical fouls in the game,” Grant said. “A lot of emotion. That’s what’s going to happen when two really good teams get together.”
The Minutemen (10-14, 4-7) are in the midst of a three-game homestand, defeating George Mason on Sunday to improve to 10-3 at home.
UMass struggled in the first half in its previous meeting with Dayton, as the Flyers shot 59 percent in the first 20 minutes to cruise to the home win. The Minutemen had a rough showing in their last game, leading UMass coach Matt McCall to take out all five of his starters early against George Mason to send a message.
“We’re not budging on the standard of effort,” McCall said. “We didn’t give great effort to start the game and that’s ultimately how we took the lead in the first half, was our effort. Just playing hard. It’s got to be that way every day.”
The Minutemen have struggled playing 40 minutes of basketball, thus falling into an early deficit or collapsing in the second half. They nearly squandered a big lead when George Mason scored 14 straight points in a four-minute stretch.
Freshman center Tre Mitchell, who scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the first meeting with Dayton, said the Minutemen can’t avoid a letdown if they want to pull off an upset on Saturday.
“I think it’s just our mindset because there’s been so many times that we’ve blown a lead and then we just keep letting them go on their run,” Mitchell said. “It’s time to step up and not let this happen no more. So, it was just good we got that win.”
–Field Level Media