Highlights: Dayton's Crutcher scores 20 vs. Rhode Island
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Dayton faces toughest remaining schedule of Atlantic 10 contenders

Flyers play top two teams in next two games

The Flyers led 41-27 at the time, though Grant said after the game that wasn’t a big enough lead to give him comfort. He made sure the players knew that in the locker room.

“You’ve got to come out the next 20 minutes, and you’ve got to hit first,” Grant said. “You’ve got to be the aggressor. You’ve got to be able to understand that’s what it takes to win the game.”

» RHODE ISLAND GAME: How Dayton wonNotes: Cunningham brings motor20 photos

On the dry-erase board behind Grant, he or another coach had written a number of stats from the first half: hustle stats (21); hustle stats leader (Obi Toppin and Ryan Mikesell); offensive efficiency (1.37 points per possession); defensive efficiency (0.87) and a number of other numbers, including assists, turnover percentage, offensive rebounds and second-chance points.

For those wondering what the coaches think about at halftime of games, that whiteboard answered their questions. Of course, at the end of the day, the only number that matters is the final score, and Dayton won this game 77-48, a margin wider than its last five victories against the Rams combined (26).

The victory keeps Dayton (16-8, 8-3) in contention in the Atlantic 10 Conference race. It’s tied with George Mason (14-10, 8-3) for third place. If Dayton beats Virginia Commonwealth (17-6, 8-2) on Saturday at UD Arena and then goes on the road to beat Davidson (17-6, 8-2) on Feb. 19 — a tall task for sure — it might find itself the favorite to earn the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament with five games to play.

Here’s how the race shapes up for the top five teams entering the final four weeks with the remaining schedules ranked from easiest to most difficult:

1. Davidson: It looked as if the Wildcats might coast to the regular-season championship until they lost 54-51 at last-place Massachusetts on Saturday. They’re tied with VCU for first but own the head-to-head tiebreaker because they beat the Rams 64-57 on Jan. 27 at Davidson. Davidson plays last-place Fordham (10-13, 1-9) twice in its last eight games. Dayton is the only team remaining on its schedule with a winning conference mark. The combined A-10 record of the seven teams it plays is 32-42.

2. George Mason: The Patriots have road games against St. Bonaventure, Saint Louis and George Washington. Their seven remaining opponents have a record of 35-44.

Highlights: Dayton opens win vs. Rhode Island with 27-7 run
Video: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

3. VCU: The Rams have five home games remaining. They play road games against Dayton, crosstown rival Richmond and George Mason in their final eight games. The combined record of the seven teams they play is 38-38.

» DUNK TRACKER: How close is Toppin to school record?

4. Duquesne: The fifth-place Dukes (16-8, 7-4) play road games against La Salle, George Mason, St. Bonaventure and Saint Louis in their last seven games. Their remaining opponents are 37-37 in conference play.

5. Dayton: The seven remaining opponents on the UD schedule are 41-33. The three remaining road games are all challenging ones. In addition to going to Davidson, the Flyers play at UMass, where they have lost four straight games, and at Duquesne, where they lost last season.

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