Dayton Flyers focus on rebounding in rematch with Saint Louis

UD takes 11-game winning streak into Saturday’s game

The Dayton Flyers — and specifically Obi Toppin — have never received more national attention during the age of social media than this season. This week alone, a Google search turned up these headlines:

• The Washington Post: "Obi Toppin is Dayton's flyer."

• "Dayton's Obi Toppin grows into an NBA draft lottery pick."

• The Athletic: "The Flight of Obi Toppin."

• The Associated Press: "Flyin high: No. 6 Dayton having best season in half-century."

Toppin, who continues to build momentum in the various national player of the year award races, knows his mom Roni reads them all, but he tries to avoid the headlines.

“I don’t read all of them,” Toppin said Thursday. “If they’re on Twitter and there’s a quote, I’ll read that, but I don’t click on any articles because I don’t want to read them and get sidetracked. I’m more focused on the next day and getting better every single day.”

That has been Dayton coach Anthony Grant’s message at almost every practice interview or postgame press conference this season: One game at a time, twenty two times this season. Getting better continues to be the focus, and this was the rare week without a mid-week game that gave Dayton the chance to do just that.

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“We were able to get on the practice floor Monday and Tuesday,” Grant said. “We had (Wednesday) off, and (Thursday) we’ll get back to our prep for our game here Saturday.”

Dayton (20-2, 9-0) starts the second half of the Atlantic 10 Conference schedule at 2 p.m. Saturday against Saint Louis (17-6, 6-4) at UD Arena. No one played Dayton tougher in the first nine A-10 games than the Billikens, who led 33-25 at halftime and 55-42 with 7:40 to play on Jan. 17 in St. Louis before Dayton started getting 3-pointers to drop.

The Flyers rallied to take a five-point lead into the final two minutes only to have Saint Louis send the game to overtime on a last-second layup by Jordan Goodwin. That set the stage for Jalen Crutcher's heroics. He hit a 3-pointer in the final second to give Dayton a 78-76 victory.

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The victory allowed Dayton to move into the top 10 of the Associated Press poll for the first time since 1967, and they climbed to No. 6 this week after extending their winning streak to 11 games last Saturday with a 70-56 victory against Fordham.

Saint Louis has won three of its five games since the loss to Dayton. The three victories came against teams near the bottom of the standings. It delivered one of its most disappointing performances of the season in its last game Wednesday, falling 82-68 at home to Duquesne.

"Right now we're wounded," Saint Louis coach Travis Ford told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "No doubt, they took a chunk out of us."

Goodwin also had some honest comments about the state of the team.

“It’s stressful right now,” he said. “It’s stressful in the locker room.”

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Duquesne beat Saint Louis by winning the rebound battle 40-30. It was the opposite story when the Billikens played Dayton. They out-rebounded Dayton 45-33 and had twice as many offensive rebounds (16-8). Saint Louis ranks 24th in the country in offensive rebound percentage.

“They’re really physical,” Grant said. “Goodwin’s probably one of the best guards I’ve ever seen in terms of knowing where the ball is going. He’s got a nose for that. Obviously, with (Hasahn) French and his size and physicality, they’ve got a lot of good and athletic players. They do a good job of keeping balls alive and getting second-chance opportunities.”

That’s why Dayton focused on one area above all others this week in practice.

“Rebounding, rebounding, rebounding,” center Jordy Tshimanga said.


Saint Louis at Dayton, 2 p.m., CBS Sports Network, 1290 and 95.7 WHIO

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