Rhode Island coach on Flyers’ historic season in A-10: ‘I don't know that I've seen a better team’

UD sweeps season series by combined total of 41 points

Jalen Crutcher's imaginary free-throw friends have witnessed quite a show this season. Every time, the Dayton Flyers point guard steps to the foul line without any of his teammates nearby — such as late in a game or, as was the case Wednesday, when he's shooting after a technical foul — he turns into a mime, pretending to slap hands with players who aren't there.

BIRTHDAY PARTY: Toppin scores 20 as he turns 22

Crutcher has done this in past seasons. It's just part of his routine. It's as effective as it is hilarious. He's shooting 86.9 percent (86 of 99) at the line. He made all six of his attempts, including two after a technical foul in the first half, in an 84-57 victory against Rhode Island at the Ryan Center.

Crutcher's accuracy at the free-throw line is a relatively minor footnote in a season of superlatives. Dayton's long list of feats keeps growing. Here's a breakdown of what the third-ranked Flyers (28-2, 17-0) have accomplished with one game left in the regular season.

1. Most wins: Dayton tied the school record for victories in a season. The 1951-52 team, coach Tom Blackburn's fifth team at Dayton, finished 28-5 and owned the record alone for 24,820 days. According to KenPom.com, Dayton has a 98 percent chance of beating George Washington on Saturday in the regular-season finale at UD Arena and breaking the school record.

» ESPN GAMEDAY: What fans need to know about Saturday

The Flyers won this game in convincing fashion, building a 46-30 halftime lead and putting it away with a 15-3 run midway through the second half. Dayton, led by Obi Toppin's 20 points and Crutcher's 17, made 6 of 13 3-pointers in the second half. It never let Rhode Island sniff a serious comeback.

"Every time, we made a run or kept it relatively close," Rhode Island coach David Cox said, "whether it was in the first half when it was six or eight, or even in the second half, when we got it to 10 or 12, just like that, they pushed the lead back up. It's a very well-oiled machine at this point."

Dayton spoiled Senior Night for Rhode Island seniors Jeff Dowtin and Cyril Langevine, who own a career record of 89-42. Dowtin scored 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting. Langevine scored six points.

"We knew they'd be primed for this game," Dayton coach Anthony Grant said, "but the thing our guys have been able to do all year is take on any challenge that comes our way."

2. Road record: Dayton finished 9-0 in Atlantic 10 Conference road games.

"Each win means a lot," Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. "We wanted a chance to go 9-0 in the league on the road, and we accomplished that tonight. Rhode Island has had a tremendous year. I think this is a team that's worthy of a NCAA tournament bid, just with what they've accomplished. Ten straight wins in league play. I don't think our league gets the respect it deserves. To come in and get a convincing win against a team that is as talented as they are to me says a lot."

3. Winning streak: Dayton won its 19th straight game. That's one short of the school record for consecutive victories in one season. Dayton won 20 straight games from January to March in 1952.

» POLL NEWS: Flyers rise again in top 25

The 19-game winning streak is the longest in the A-10 since Saint Louis won 19 straight in 2013-14, and it’s tied for the fifth longest in conference history.

"In my 20 years of watching Atlantic 10 Conference basketball, I don't know there is a better team I've seen," Cox said. "Maybe a more talented team here and there, maybe a couple more stars or pros, maybe a better coached team, I don't know. The collective of talent, the cohesiveness, the coaching, I don't know that I've seen a better team. I was kind of hoping we wouldn't get that A game tonight, but it seems like there A minus game is pretty good."

4. Conference standing: Dayton clinched a share of the A-10 title with a 62-55 victory at George Mason and secured the outright crown Friday with an 82-67 victory against Davidson. If Richmond loses Saturday at Duquesne, Dayton will become the first A-10 team to win the regular-season championship by five games since George Washington in 2006.

Dayton became the first team since the A-10 returned to an 18-game schedule in 2014-15 to win 17 games. No team has won 18 games since Temple in the 1980s.

Of course, more important than all those fun facts is the perception that Dayton is find its rhythm at the right time. Since a sub-par performance at George Mason, it has dominated Davidson and Rhode Island. Now it gets one more home game to build momentum heading into the A-10 tournament next week in Brooklyn, N.Y.

"You want to peak going into March," Dayton forward Ryan Mikesell said. "I still think we can get better. That's the scary thing."

About the Author