The Dayton Flyers first played Duquesne, the out-of-state opponent it has played more than any other, in January 1953, winning two double-overtime games 19 days apart thanks to names well remembered 66 years later: Don Donoher, Jack Sallee, Tom Frericks, John Horan, James Paxson, etc.
The first game in Pittsburgh was a blur for UD coach Tom Blackburn.
“Tell me one thing: What the devil was the score?” he asked a reporter on the walk back to the team hotel.
Dayton took the lead in the series with those two victories and has never lost it. It has continued to dominate Duquesne in recent years with nine wins in the last 11 games and owns a 52-23 lead in the series. The only team it has beaten more is Xavier (84-76).
» GAME PREVIEW: Duquesne at Dayton
That history lesson won’t mean much when the Dukes play the Flyers at 2 p.m. Saturday at UD Arena. Keith Dambrot has led Duquesne back to respectability in his second season. He took over a program coming off five straight non-winning seasons and coached it to a 16-16 mark last season. This season, Duquesne is 15-6, and with a 6-2 mark in the Atlantic 10 Conference, it’s tied with Dayton (14-7) for third place with 10 games to play.
Here are three storylines to follow entering this game:
1. Top offenses: Through eight A-10 games, Duquesne leads the conference with 75.4 points per game. Dayton ranks second (73.6).
Led by Obi Toppin and Josh Cunningham, who rank first (69.2) and 12th (64.1) in the nation in field-goal percentage, Dayton ranks fifth in Division I in field-goal percentage (50.3). It’s one of six teams shooting 50 percent or better.
Like Dayton, Duquesne has a balanced lineup with six players averaging between 7.0 and 13.0 points per game.
» TOUGH STRETCH: Dayton faces six straight challenging games
“They have a really good team,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said Thursday. “I’ve had a chance to watch maybe one or two games, but I’m really impressed with how hard they play. They compete on both sides of the ball. Coach Dambrot, typically one of his trademarks, is he has teams that play really hard and play well. Defensively, they turn you over. They get steals. They create opportunities to score off their defense, and then offensively, inside they’ve got a few big kids who are really good in terms of their scoring.”
2. Building momentum: Dayton has won two straight games by double digits — against Fordham and Saint Joseph’s — since losing at home to George Mason.
The Dukes saw a five-game A-10 winning streak end with an 80-74 loss at home to Virginia Commonwealth last Saturday but bounced back with a 75-72 victory at home Wednesday against Rhode Island. They overcame a 19-point halftime deficit to win. Frankie Hughes hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 43 seconds left, and Sincere Carry hit two free throws with 19 seconds left.
» THROWBACK THURSDAY: Looking back at first Duquesne game in 1953
“I’ve never seen a team play as bad as that and rally back,” Dambrot told TribLive.com. “I can’t imagine we could play any worse. I give our guys credit because they were awful. We looked like a bunch of Night of the Living Deads. Zombies.”
3. New faces: Nine players saw action for Duquesne the last time they played Dayton in February 2018 at UD Arena. Only two of those players remain with the team: Eric Williams Jr., who leads the Dukes in scoring with 12.6 points per game; and Kellon Taylor, who has appeared in six games.
Tarin Smith transferred to Connecticut. Mike Lewis II transferred to Nevada in December. The team also lost four seniors from last year’s team.
The new rotation includes four transfers who sat out last season: guard Tavian Dunn-Martin and center Michael Hughes, who played for Dambrot at Akron; forward Marcus Weathers, formerly of Miami University; and guard Frankie Hughes, who left Missouri after one season.
Perhaps the most important addition, however, was Carry, a freshman point guard who ranks second on the team in scoring (12.3) and ranks second in the A-10 in assists per game (5.9).
“We have a good point guard, which helps you win close games,” Dambrot told TribLive.com. “He’s strong, he’s tough and he’s young. But he’s a good player, so that helps you, I think, when you can handle the ball and you can make good decisions and you get the ball to the right places when it matters.”
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