Kendall Pollard was just a face in the crowd Tuesday at UD Arena. Almost three years after he played his final game with the Dayton Flyers, he sat in the corner opposite Dayton’s bench, watching a couple of his old teammates, Ryan Mikesell and Trey Landers, help UD beat Virginia Commonwealth 79-65.
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It was Dayton’s second victory against VCU since Pollard graduated in 2017 and the latest sign that this Dayton team is something special. This was the second game Pollard has attended. He also saw the Flyers play in Chicago when they lost 78-76 in overtime to Colorado.
“It’s exciting watching them play,” Pollard said, “and all grow into being very good players. From watching Trey and Ryan as freshmen to now be the players we knew they could be, that makes me proud in itself. And as far as the program being back in the national spotlight, it’s awesome as well. I can kind of brag to my friends about my school being able to beat their schools and how we have a lottery pick who can’t be stopped.”
That lottery pick, Obi Toppin, scored 24 points against VCU as Dayton beat a team that it lost to twice last season. At 7 p.m. Friday, No. 13 Dayton (15-2, 4-0) gets another chance to beat a team that beat it twice a year ago. It plays Saint Louis (14-3, 3-1), the defending A-10 tournament champions, at Chaifetz Arena.
Here are five storylines to follow:
1. This is a much different Saint Louis team than the one Dayton last saw: Eight players saw action for the Billikens against Dayton in a 64-55 victory in the quarterfinals of the A-10 tournament last season. Only Hasahn French and Jordan Goodwin are currently in the Saint Louis rotation.
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Javon Bess, Dion Wiley, D.J. Foreman and Tramaine Isabell were seniors last season. Fred Thatch Jr. hasn’t played since November. KC Hankton has played a total of 58 minutes this season.
2. Saint Louis has one of the youngest rosters in the country. The Billikens rank 300th out of 353 teams in experience. Freshmen Yuri Collins and Jimmy Bell Jr. start.
3. No one in the country shoots free throws worse than the Billikens: They rank last in free-throw percentage (56.2). They ranked second to last a year ago (59.8).
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However, Saint Louis gets to the line better than most teams in the country and better than any team in the A-10. It ranks 29th in the country in free-throw rate.
4. It’s another resume-boosting opportunity for Dayton: Saint Louis ranks 51st in the NCAA Evaluation Tool. Dayton is sixth. Beating a top-75 team on the road goes down as a Quadrant 1 victory, which would be a good thing for Dayton’s NCAA tournament resume.
Dayton is 2-2 in Quadrant 1 games and 13-0 in the other three quadrants. Dayton has played one game in a five-game stretch in which it will get four Quadrant 1 opportunities. It plays at No. 61 Richmond on Jan. 25 and at No. 54 Duquesne on Jan. 29.
All the focus now, of course, is on the next opponent and winning a seventh straight game.
“Saint Louis is a really good team,” Toppin said. “We know that’s going to be another great game, and we’re going to have to fight it out for 40 minutes.”
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