Anthony Grant walked off the court at Rhode Island’s Ryan Center with a big smile as he talked to junior guard Trey Landers. That’s a rare sight for Grant, who only breaks out the biggest grins for the biggest victories.
Everyone else on the Dayton Flyers roster shared Grant’s joyous look, especially walk-on guard Camron Greer, who put the finishing touches on a 77-48 victory on Saturday with a 3-pointer in the final seconds.
“I’m proud of our guys effort today,” Grant said. “From the start of the game, our guys had a focus and a purpose. We understood we were walking into a hostile environment. … I thought our guys were able to handle the physicality of the game, the emotion of the game, and were able to execute at a high level on both ends of the floor.”
This was Dayton’s most lopsided Atlantic 10 Conference victory of the season, and it kept them in contention for the regular-season title. With a month to play, Dayton (16-8, 8-3) trails first-place Davidson and Virginia Commonwealth (both 17-6, 8-2) by a half game. The Flyers play both those teams in their next two games, hosting VCU on Saturday and traveling to Davidson on Feb. 19.
In a week of surprising A-10 results — Massachusetts getting blown out at home by Fordham and then beating Davidson on the same court four days later or Saint Joseph’s beating Saint Louis by 30— this score may not have ranked in the top three, but it was a stunner to anyone watch Dayton lost 73-60 on Tuesday at Saint Louis.
Dayton never led in that game after falling behind 10-0 and never trailed in this game after taking a 12-0 lead. It shot 63.3 percent from the field and 50 percent (6 of 12) from 3-point range.
“Coach was just on us at practice,” Dayton point guard Jalen Crutcher said. “He told us at the beginning of the game, we’ve got to come out strong. That’s what we did tonight. We kept our foot on the gas.”
Crutcher led the Flyers with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Obi Toppin scored 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Josh Cunningham scored 13. Jordan Davis had 10.
In the first half, Dayton led by as many as 21 points. It carried a 41-27 lead into halftime.
Dayton held the Rams to 29 percent shooting from the field in the half and 22.2 percent shooting from 3-point range (2 of 9).
“I thought the key for us was on the defensive end,” Grant said. “I thought we set the tone defensively. We were able to get consecutive stops, and that allowed us to get out in transition and play in a rhythm.”
Dayton avenged two losses to the Rams in 2018. Rhode Island (12-10, 5-6) fell into ninth place a year after winning the A-10 regular season title.
The Rams will play at Dayton on March 1. This was their most lopsided loss of the season. They missed their first eight shots and shot 3 of 19 from 3-point range (15.8 percent). They fell to last place in the country in 3-point shooting percentage.
“That was an embarrassing loss on our home floor,” first-year Rhode Island coach David Cox said. “I want to apologize to our fans who came out to support us today. What a tremendous atmosphere. Obviously, they showed up and we didn’t. I give credit to Anthony Grant and the Dayton basketball program for coming in here and playing a high-level game today. It was a matter of our lack of offensive confidence finally catching up to us an affecting us on the defensive end. We were bad on offense, obviously, and poor on defense with regard to 1-on-1 defense for the most part. Everything kind of steamrolled today.”