‘A very difficult team to stop’ — Dayton turns up intensity to complete sweep of Davidson

Experts see Dayton as lock for NCAA tournament after 22nd victory

No one in the Flyer Faithful want to count a NCAA tournament bid before it’s hatched. Talk of locks and Sharpies might as well be banned until Selection Sunday for a fan base that saw its greatest regular season derailed by a global pandemic four years ago and has narrowly missed experiencing March Madness the last two seasons.

That said, the experts like chances of the No. 21 Dayton Flyers, especially after an 80-66 victory against Davidson on Wednesday at UD Arena.

“The Dayton Flyers are an NCAA Tournament lock,” wrote JBR Bracketology on X (Twitter) after the game.

The account listed Dayton’s record (22-5, 12-3) and its 16th-ranked strength of schedule with three games remaining. It also cited its No. 11 spot in the KPI Rankings.

“The Flyers are safely in the field even if they were to lose out, despite not currently holding a win over a projected tournament team,” JBR Bracketology wrote. “This will be the Flyers’ first NCAA Tournament appearance since Archie Miller took Dayton to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments 2014-2017, not including the projected 1 seed in 2020. Welcome to March Madness!”

Another expert made the same decision of T3Bracketology.com.

“Dayton Flyers, welcome to LOCK status!” the account posted after the game. “It is now 100% official, Dayton will shift into the lock bucket with the win over Davidson.”

Dayton has two other goals to pursue before worrying about the NCAA tournament: winning the Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season championship and the A-10 tournament. Achieving one of those goals or both will improve its NCAA tournament seed and thus its chances of advancing in March.

For the first time in weeks, Dayton looked like a team capable of making a NCAA tournament run Tuesday. The Flyers used a 22-4 run in the first half to build a 40-21 halftime lead and then coasted to their second straight two-game regular-season sweep of Davidson and their ninth straight victory in the series.

Six days after a 71-67 loss at George Mason, Dayton produced the type of dominant performance it wanted and needed to get back on track.

“We really wanted to get ourselves going before we went into Loyola,” guard Kobe Elvis said.

First place might be on the line when Dayton plays Loyola Chicago (20-8, 12-3) at 9 p.m. Friday at Joseph J. Gentile Arena in Chicago. Both teams have already clinched top-four seeds and double byes in the A-10 tournament. They will start play in the quarterfinals on March 14 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Loyola saw its seven-game winning streak end and fell into a tie for second place with Dayton with a 79-64 loss Tuesday at St. Bonaventure (18-10, 9-7). Richmond (20-7, 12-2), which plays at Saint Louis (10-17, 3-11) on Wednesday, leads the A-10 by a half game.

Dayton will have to deliver one of its best efforts on the road to win Friday. It has proven it can win at home. The Flyers improved to 14-0 at UD Arena with one home game to play: March 8 against Virginia Commonwealth (18-9, 10-4).

Dayton last finished undefeated at home in 2020 when it was 17-0. It also finished 17-0 at UD Arena in the 2014-15 season. The only other time it did not lose a game at UD Arena in a season was 2008-09 when it was 18-0.

“We’ve got to protect our house,” guard Koby Brea said.

Brea led Dayton with 17 points against Davidson. He made 5 of 9 3-pointers. He had plenty of help. Five other Dayton players scored in double figures: Enoch Cheeks (15); DaRon Holmes II (14); Elvis (11); Javon Bennett (10); and Nate Santos (10).

Davidson (15-13, 5-10) lost its last game in the final seconds, 66-63 at Richmond on Saturday, and lost the road game before that in overtime, 81-80 at St. Bonaventure. Against Dayton, Davidson lost momentum fast after scoring the first six points of the game.

“We thought we came out ready,” Davidson coach Matt McKillop said in his postgame radio interview. “We came out aggressive. I thought we defended well for most of the first few possessions. (Dayton) went into that first media timeout, and they really turned up their aggression and their intensity and we did not respond.”

McKillop referenced Davidson’s early turnover issues. It had only seven in the game, but five came in the first seven minutes, and three occurred during a 10-0 Dayton run that covered two minutes and turned an 8-4 Davidson lead into a 14-8 Dayton advantage.

A 3-pointer by Brea started the Dayton run. Cheeks then scored back-to-back baskets. Santos followed with a 3-point play.

“They did it in every way,” McKillop said. “They scored inside. They scored on pick and rolls. They scored on screens. They scored passing out of the post. They’re a very difficult team to stop.”

Davidson opened the second half with a 6-0 run but never got closer than 13 points after that and trailed by 20 until an 8-2 run in the final minutes.

Dayton made 12 of 28 3-pointers (42.9%), improving its season percentage to 39.3, the seventh-best mark in the country. The Flyers made their free throws (10 of 12) and finished shots inside the arc as well (17 of 26, 65.4%).

“I was proud of our guys for their resiliency early,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said, “because obviously you want to start the game well, and we didn’t necessarily start our best. But I thought they stayed the course. Defensively, we got great efforts tonight all the way across the board. Offensively, the ball movement in the first half was as good as we’ve had in quite some time. I thought they really shared the ball. When you look at the stat sheet, you see six guys in double figures. I think that’s indicative of what this team is capable of.”


Dayton at Loyola Chicago, 9 p.m., ESPN2, 95.7, 1290

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