Like all college basketball coaches, Dayton Flyers coach Anthony Grant has many favorite quotes he repeats throughout the year. This is one of them: “Every game has a life of its own.”
Grant said that Wednesday, one day after a 72-48 victory at Massachusetts and two days before a 7 p.m. Friday game against Rhode Island at UD Arena. It’s a true statement. Momentum doesn’t always carry over to the next game just as a poor performance doesn’t always infect a team’s play days later.
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It’s also a good attitude for Grant and his players to have as they continue a stretch that sees them play four teams they have already played for a second time. Dayton (19-9, 11-4) completed a season sweep of UMass and will try to do the same against Rhode Island (13-14, 6-9)
Here are three storylines to follow:
1. Duplicating dominance: Dayton played what at the time was its best game of the season in the first game in Kingston, R.I., on Feb. 9, winning 77-48 in a game that was never close. Dayton opened the game with a 12-0 run and led by as many as 21 points in the first half.
“This game against Rhode Island, the second time we’ve played them, will be a big challenge for our guys,” Grant said. “Our third game in six days. We’ve got to make sure we’re at our best to get this next game.”
2. Standings picture: The Flyers moved into a tie for second place in the Atlantic 10 Conference as Davidson lost 79-69 at eighth-place La Salle on Wednesday.
With three games to play, Dayton and Davidson (both 11-4) trail Virginia Commonwealth (13-2) by two games. Barring a collapse by VCU, the Rams will get the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament and win their first outright championship. If the season ended now, Dayton would have the No. 2 seed because it beat Davidson 74-73.
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That leaves five teams fighting for the other top three seeds in the A-10 tournament and the double byes into the quarterfinals at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
George Mason and St. Bonaventure are tied for fourth at 10-5. Duquesne is sixth at 9-6.
3. Poor shooting: Rhode Island ranks last in the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage (26.6 percent). It made 3 of 19 (15.8 percent) in the first game against Dayton, and that came during a four-game stretch in which it failed to top 20 percent.
The Rams shot better in their last game, making 10 of 21 in an 80-53 victory Tuesday against George Washington. That victory ended a five-game losing streak in which they lost four games to the top three teams in the conference (twice to Davidson and once to Dayton and VCU) and one to the last-place team, Fordham.
“The basketball gods finally took care of us,” coach David Cox told The Independent. “For the last three or four games, I’ve seen it in these guys’ eyes. I’ve seen it every day in their work ethic. These guys have lived in the gym. They’ve been extremely coachable. They haven’t started making excuses or pointing fingers at one another even though it’s been a tough streak. I just thought, ‘Man, these guys have a tremendous amount of character and at some point, they’ll be rewarded for their hard work.’ Tonight, we were rewarded for it.”
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