Two months have passed since the fifth-ranked Dayton Flyers lost a game. Their 15-game winning streak began four days before Christmas and lasted past New Year’s Day, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day and President’s Day.
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If the streak lasts past St. Patrick’s Day, which falls on March 17, two days after another big holiday, Selection Sunday, Dayton will take a 32-2 record into the NCAA tournament and own Atlantic 10 regular-season and tournament championships.
At that point, it would be the winningest team in Dayton history no matter what happens in March Madness. Everything revolves around the big dance these days, but this Dayton team has shown what a joyride the regular season can be.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Dayton guard Dwayne Cohill said. “People probably didn’t expect us to be top five in the country or be on a 15-game winning streak. That’s fun: winning every game. We’re just trying to keep having fun and keep winning as long as we can.”
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For forward Ryan Mikesell, having fun means enjoying every moment of the final stretch of his career. He and guard Trey Landers have three more home games. They Flyers (24-2, 13-0) play Duquesne (18-7, 8-5) at 2 p.m. Saturday and then host Davidson (13-12, 7-6) at 7 p.m. Friday and George Washington (12-14, 6-7) at 7 p.m. March 7.
“I’m always talking with (graduate assistant) Sean Damaska on the staff about the season and the last of everything,” Mikesell said. “I’m trying to soak it all in as a fifth-year guy. These are going to be memories for the rest of my life, so I’m trying to make the most of it.”
Here are three things to know about Saturday’s game:
1. Slumping Duquesne: For the second straight game, Dayton plays a team that is struggling. VCU had lost two straight games, and Dayton extended its misery with a 66-61 victory Tuesday in Richmond. The Dukes opened A-10 play with five straight victories and have since lost five of their last eight games.
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Duquesne delivered one of its worst performances in its last game, falling 70-67 at home to George Washington. The Dukes shot 20.8 percent from 3-point range (5 of 24). It was their worst percentage in A-10 play.
“I am frustrated our guys and for the fans we just haven’t quite been able to get over the hump,” Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot told reporters. “George Washington played well and used the clock. We just couldn’t come back. When things went poorly it magnified.”
2. Series dominance: Dayton has won eight of its last nine games against Duquesne, and Duquesne has lost its last six games at UD Arena. It last won in Dayton in 2012.
3. Third rematch: Dayton completed season sweeps of Massachusetts, Saint Louis and VCU and plays two more opponents for the second time in its last five games: Duquesne and Rhode Island (March 4).
Dayton had a 19-point lead with 12 minutes to play in the first game against Duquesne on Jan. 29 at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. Duquesne got as close as 71-69 in the final 30 seconds before Obi Toppin clinched a 73-69 victory with two free throws.
“It just shows you can’t take a team lightly during a game at all,” Mikesell said. “You need to play all 40 minutes. As soon as you let up off the gas, they’ll be right there.”
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