Dayton flirting with last place as Fordham comes to town

Game at UD Arena matches 10th-place team and one team tied for last

Dayton announced Wednesday it had sold out its game Saturday night against Fordham.

Even for a program that ranks in the top 25 in attendance every season, that was somewhat surprising news. Fordham isn’t a rival or even the most exciting Rams team in the Atlantic 10 or, for that matter, the second most exciting Rams team (after VCU).

Dayton also hasn’t thrilled the Flyer Faithful in recent weeks, losing six of its last eight games. Most fan bases wouldn’t pack an arena for a game featuring a 10th-place team and a team tied for last.

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However, it’s February, and there’s basketball to be played. That’s enough for Dayton fans. They may not fill every seat, but they’ll hope for the best for their team because if anything would cause them to skip the two home games to follow, it would be a loss to Fordham.

“The thing we’ve seen all year is on any given night anything can happen, no matter who we’re playing, no matter where we’re playing,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said Thursday. “We have to be able to figure out how to bring a consistency, whether we’re at home or on the road. Obviously, we’ve had more struggles on the road. What we’ve got to do is every single day try to be locked in and continue to get better.”

It’s no secret Dayton (11-14, 5-8) has performed much better at home. It’s 9-4 at UD Arena and 1-8 in true road games. It also lost two of three games on a neutral court in the Charleston Classic.

If Dayton loses its two remaining road games at Rhode Island and La Salle — and a victory in either of those games would be a surprise — it will finish with its worst road record since 1996-97 when it was 1-11 on the road.

Much better Dayton teams than this one have struggled on the road. Archie Miller’s first team was 14-4 at home and 3-8 on the road. His second team was 13-4 at home and 2-8 on the road. Even the last Dayton team to win a NCAA tournament game, the seven-man 2014-15 squad, was 17-0 at home and 5-6 on the road.

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Winning on the road is hard for almost every team. There’s also a big difference between losing competitive games on the road, as Dayton did in overtime games at Massachusetts and Virginia Commonwealth in recent weeks, and getting blown out, which is what happened at St. Joseph’s in January and again at George Mason on Wednesday.

Dayton's 85-67 loss in Fairfax, Va., puts it in danger of finishing last after two straight years atop the conference. The Flyers have never finished last in the A-10.

Fordham (9-16, 4-9) sits a game back of Dayton and shares last place with George Washington, La Salle and Massachusetts. While Fordham isn’t good, it did beat George Mason and won at Duquesne earlier this month. The Flyers can’t afford to overlook the Rams.

“They’re a lot different than any team we’ve played,” Grant said. “We’ll see some things from a defensive standpoint we haven’t seen all year, and offensively, they give you a variety of different looks.”

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