Flyers play their second of three straight games against a team with the Rams nickname on Friday
Davidson enjoyed its No. 25 ranking for two days before seeing its 15-game winning streak and 6-0 start in the Atlantic 10 Conference end with a 70-68 loss to Virginia Commonwealth on Wednesday.
Preseason favorite St. Bonaventure has faded with two losses in its last three games.
George Mason has emerged as a possible contender after beating Dayton, Saint Joseph’s and St. Bonaventure in a five-day stretch at EagleBank Arena.
The A-10 may have a hard time getting more than one team into the NCAA tournament, but it should at least provide an exciting regular season and a wide-open conference tournament in Washington, D.C. in March.
The Dayton Flyers (13-7, 5-2), who play Rhode Island (12-6, 3-3) at 7 p.m. Friday at UD Arena, have experienced the wrong side of that excitement twice with two one-point losses. If VCU’s Ace Baldwin’s 3-pointer in the final seconds hadn’t fallen at UD Arena on Jan. 5 and if Mustapha Amzil’s 3-pointer had fallen Saturday at George Mason, the Flyers would be alone in first place.
Instead, Dayton trails first-place Davidson (16-3, 6-1) by one game and is tied with VCU (12-6, 5-2) for third place with George Mason (10-7, 3-1), which got a late start in A-10 play because of COVID-19 issues, alone in second place.
“We’re seven games into conference play,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said Tuesday after a 68-61 victory against Fordham. “We’ve got a lot of growth left. Our approach is to always try and get ready for the next opponent. We’ve got a real quick prep for Friday’s game with Rhode Island. We’ve got to do the best job we can to keep our keep our focus on where it should be and that’s just the game in front of us.”'
A year ago, Dayton beat Rhode Island twice in three matchups, but the one loss stung because the Flyers blew an 18-point lead in the second half before losing 91-89 in double overtime in Kingston, R.I.
Rhode Island comes to UD Arena this week after two disappointing losses at home. After opening A-10 play with a 72-68 loss at Davidson, it beat Saint Joseph’s (9-10, 3-5), Massachusetts (9-10, 2-5) and La Salle (6-11, 1-6), but then lost 63-61 to George Washington (6-12, 2-4) on Saturday and 70-63 to Richmond (13-7, 4-3) on Tuesday.
Rhode Island blew an 11-point second-half lead against George Washington and a 15-point second-half lead against Richmond
“Another tough one tonight,” Rhode Island coach David Cox told reporters. “Got to give credit to Richmond and their veteran players. They really showed their age and experience in the second half. Even though we built a considerable lead, we couldn’t seem to keep our foot on their necks. They kept making plays and making plays and it was one of those situations where someone was going to crack. And we ended up cracking down the stretch.”