Dayton Flyers: Looking back at team’s 13 non-conference games as it prepares to start A-10 play

Dayton starts conference play Sunday against Richmond

Aside from Tulsa, the Dayton Flyers beat everyone they were favored to beat in their 13 non-conference games. With the exception of their victory against Butler, they lost every time they were the underdog.

From that perspective, Dayton (8-5) has been consistent and predictable. On the other hand, from one half to another, this can look like a different team.

Coach Anthony Grant saw that inconsistency again Saturday in a 94-90 victory against Georgia Southern as his team let a 16-point lead shrink to one twice in the final minutes.

“Consistency is so much more important than greatness,” Grant said. “That’s the mark of a good team. That’s the mark of a good player — that you can repeat great efforts, great performances night after night after night. That’s what really good teams and really good players do. We have to understand that. We all have to understand that. That’s the expectation.”

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The expectation for Dayton now is to contend for the Atlantic 10 Conference championship. They play Richmond at noon Sunday at UD Arena in the first of 18 conference games. Before moving ahead, however, let’s take a look back at Dayton’s performance in non-conference action.

MVP: While Josh Cunningham leads the Flyers in scoring (16.0 points per game), sophomore point guard Jalen Crutcher has emerged as the most valuable player in the lineup. He leads the team in minutes played (35.5 per game), ranks second on the team in scoring (14.1) and ranks third in the conference in assists (5.9). He also has delivered from behind the 3-point line (35 of 80, 43.8 percent), where he's far and away Dayton's most consistent outside threat.

Top newcomer: Redshirt freshman forward Obi Toppin has lived up to the hype in his first season on the court. He ranks third on the team in scoring (13.4) despite averaging 10 fewer minutes (22.2) than some of the starters.

» RECRUITING: Florida transfer visits UD

Best story:Tom Archdeacon's column on Cunningham and his girlfriend, WNBA star A'ja Wilson, may have been more timely on Valentine's Day, but it showed a different side of Dayton's senior captain, who owes Wilson for helping him overcame early struggles at the free-throw line.

“He’s probably tired of hearing it from me,” she said. “But that’s the hard part of having a girlfriend who’s a basketball player too.”

Worst news: Junior guard Jhery Matos, who was emerging as one of the team's best defenders and passers, suffered a season-ending foot injury Nov. 23 during the second half of a 65-54 loss to Oklahoma. He underwent successful surgery Dec. 27 and will receive a medical redshirt.

Best stat: Toppin ranks second in the county in field-goal percentage (77 of 105, 73.3) behind Baylor's Tristan Clark (71 of 91, 78.0).

Toppin is well on his way to breaking the Dayton freshman record for field-goal percentage (Chris Wright, 60.2, 2007-08) and could challenge the all-class record set by Sean Finn in 2002-03 (128-181, 70.7).

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Worst stat: With only eight scholarship players available for the rest of the season, Dayton ranks 332nd out of 351 teams in the country in bench minutes.

The Flyers have used a seven-man rotation since losing Matos. The eighth player, freshman Frankie Policelli, played 16 minutes in the 98-59 victory over Detroit Mercy but has not topped three minutes in five other appearances. Dayton has struggled in the second half of recent games, and tired legs may be an issue during the grind of the A-10 schedule.

Best new records: Toppin set Dayton's single-game dunks record with eight Dec. 4 against Detroit Mercy. The team set a record with 12 dunks in the game.

Best dunk: Toppin executed perhaps the first between-the-legs dunk in a game in UD Arena history Saturday. It ranked third on SportsCenter's top-10 plays of the day. More than 400,000 people had viewed a Dayton Daily News video of the dunk as of Sunday night.

Best victory: Dayton beat Butler 69-64 in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Nov. 21 in the Bahamas. The Bulldogs (9-4) rank 37th in the Ken Pomeroy ratings and 51st in the NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool). Dayton ranks 83rd and 76th.

Worst loss: Dayton fell 72-67 to Tulsa in the Basketball Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase on Dec. 16. Tulsa ranks 125th in the Pomeroy ratings and 90th in the NET.

Best game: Dayton's game against Georgia Southern was its closest of the season. Georgia Southern's Quan Jackson missed a game-tying shot with 25 seconds left. Trey Landers had two key rebounds in the final minute, one on the offensive end to extend a possession and the second after the miss by Jackson. Crutcher sealed the victory by making 4 of 4 free throws in the final 13 seconds.

Worst game: Dayton trailed Auburn by 19 in the first half on Dec. 8, and though the Flyers got as close as six points in the second half, they trailed by double digits for the majority of the game and lost 82-72.

» FOLLOW THE FLYERS: All the links you need for the season in one place

Best pickles: Trainer Mike Mulcahey, the only guy left on the Dayton bench who was there for five NCAA tournament victories in 2014 and 2015, helped Toppin overcome cramping issues early in the season by giving him pickles. Toppin's still eating them. He grabbed a couple after the game Saturday on the way to the locker room.

“I’ve used pickles for years,” Mulcahey said Nov. 7 after the season opener against North Florida. “It’s something I learned from a physician a long time ago. It’s natural and it’s amazing how quickly it works for kids who are cramping.”


Richmond at Dayton, noon, NBC Sports Network, AM 1290 and News 95.7 WHIO

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