Dayton Flyers seek eighth straight victory over Saint Louis

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Highlights: Dayton Flyers beat Davidson

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Flyers haven’t lost to Billikens since 2014

If fans of Dayton basketball had any words of wisdom for their program when it comes to finding a new rival, they might say, “Go west, young Flyers.”

Five years after Xavier left the Atlantic 10 and 20 years after the death of the Gem City Jam, Dayton’s only natural rival in terms of location, conference affiliation and program potential is Saint Louis, 359 miles to the west. Dayton is far and away the closest neighbor Saint Louis has in the A-10.

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Dayton has a shorter trip to Duquesne in Pittsburgh, but the Dukes more often than not find themselves in the bottom half of the A-10 standings. Saint Louis, on the other hand, showed it can win with one of the best three-year runs in conference history (81 wins from 2011-14) four years ago.

Dayton fans have tried to force this rivalry into existence by creating a name for the game, the Arch Baron Cup, and even an MVP trophy. Do the trophy and MVP award actually exist? Probably not. Does it matter? No.

The Arch Baron Cup has taken on a life of its own — at least if you count the number of times it has been mentioned on Twitter this week. The Flyers (10-10, 4-4) play Saint Louis (9-10, 3-5) at Chaifetz Arena at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Saint Louis coach Travis Ford even fielded a question about the Arch Baron Cup at A-10 Media Day in October.

“That is new to me,” he said. “I’ll have to do a little research on that.”

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Ford lost to Dayton twice last season, his first as Saint Louis coach, and the Billikens have lost seven straight games in the series.

“In order to have a rivalry,” Ford said, “you have to provide better competition than what we’ve given them in the past, but I hope we can do a better job.”

The Billikens entered this season with improved hopes after three straight losing seasons. Ford landed two top-100 recruits in 2017, and five transfers, including Michigan State’s Javon Bess, joined the program.

However, two of those transfers, Adonys Henriquez and Ty Graves, plus another player, Jermaine Bishop, have not played all season. They faced allegations of sexual assault in September. They practiced with the team and traveled to road games until last week. Their attorney told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week the players have been suspended from school for 18 months to two years.

The bad news off the court preceded bad news on the court for the Billikens, who lost 75-74 in overtime at home Tuesday to Virginia Commonwealth. The Rams hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds to send the game to overtime.

“We get a little bit of a lead and the other team increased its intensity, aggressiveness and their pressure, and we kind of went the other way,” Ford said. “Fatigue played a factor a little bit, but no excuses. We just didn’t make enough plays.”

With the suspensions, Saint Louis has eight scholarship players available. Four starters played 40 minutes or more against VCU.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Postgame: Dayton's Trey Landers on victory over Davidson

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Dayton didn't have an easy time either Tuesday, though it did win, 65-64 against Davidson at UD Arena. Four Dayton starters played between 35 and 39 minutes. With 10 games left in A-10 play, Dayton finds itself one game out of third place and one game out of 12th.

The Flyers finished a stretch of playing three games in seven days Tuesday and will get a week break after playing at Saint Louis.

“We’ve got a little bit of a window here to get our legs back under us and regroup mentally and physically,” Anthony Grant said Tuesday. “Every game in this league, you look up and down the standings, anything can happen on any given night. We’ve got to make sure we’re putting our best foot forward to be prepared to go into Saint Louis and try to get a win.”


SATURDAY’S GAME

Dayton at Saint Louis, 4 p.m., CBS Sports Network, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO