RICHMOND, Va. — The winter storm in Ohio prevented the Dayton Flyers from flying home after the game Wednesday night at the Siegel Center. They planned to board a charter flight late Thursday morning. Then it’ll be a short turnaround before a trip to St. Louis on Friday for a 2 p.m. Saturday game.
That’s life in college basketball at this time of year, but it’s an easier life to endure when you’re winning and that’s even truer when you win by 30 points.
Dayton routed Virginia Commonwealth 82-52, reaching the halfway point of the Atlantic 10 Conference schedule with their best performance of 2022 and perhaps their best in league play since a 106-79 defeat of VCU in 2018.
“I think that was one of our best performances of the season,” Dayton forward DaRon Holmes II said. “We all locked in together. We played as a team. We played great defense. We played tough. We played with heart and passion. We didn’t get too emotional.”
Holmes scored a career-high 21 points. Kobe Elvis also reached his career high with 20 points. Toumani Camara carried the offense early, scoring 16 of his 18 points in the first half by making 4 of 4 3-pointers.
Those three players combined to make 24 of 40 field-goal attempts (60%). Dayton shot 52.4% from the field after shooting 38.5% in the first game.
“This is one of those days where the shots were falling for (Camara),” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “I that’s one of the strengths of our team. We have different guys on different nights who are capable of having nights like that. Tonight, Toumani had a big night. Kobe was really good tonight. I thought he was really aggressive, especially against the pressure. (Holmes) took advantage of opportunities. We had a lot of really good efforts tonight.”
The game turned with an 11-0 spurt in 89 seconds as Dayton broke a 21-21 tie, but the big plays of the game came in the final seconds of the first half. Malachi Smith threw an alley-oop pass to Holmes for a dunk, and then Elvis stole the in-bounds pass and scored on a layup at the buzzer. The Flyers had a 43-28 lead.
“Me, Mali and everybody were going crazy all the way to the (locker room),” Elvis said.
The situation didn’t improve for VCU in the second half as Dayton scored the first five points to push the lead to 20. The Flyers rolled to their most lopsided victory in 18 A-10 games against VCU since 2014 and handed VCU its worst loss — in conference or out — since it fell 81-50 to UNC Wilmington in 2003. VCU hadn’t lost a home game by 20 or more points since 2011.
“Credit to Dayton,” VCU coach Mike Rhoades said. “They came in here and whipped us today. They out-worked us, out-coached us. They did everything tonight. We’ve had some great games against them, but today wasn’t one of them.”
Rhoades and VCU had a good excuse for losing, if not by that margin. The Rams were without two injured players: their leading scorer, Vince Williams (12.9 points per game); and one of their key reserves, Jalen DeLoach (4.0). Williams has a calf injury. DeLoach is in concussion protocol.
VCU beat Dayton 53-52 at UD Arena on Jan. 5 without two starters (Levi Stockard and Jayden Nunn, who combined for seven points in this game) but couldn’t overcome a short bench this time. Dayton, which excelled on both ends of the court, had a lot to do with that.
“I thought the guys did a really good job,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “Obviously, the caveat is VCU was missing a really important piece with Vince Williams not being there. But I thought our guys understood that we were coming into a difficult place to play, and then they locked in together and did a really good job on the defensive end, making it difficult for VCU to have success.”
The victory moved Dayton (15-7, 7-2) into second place, one game behind Davidson (18-3, 8-1), which plays at UD Arena on March 5 in the final game of the regular season. VCU (13-7, 6-3) saw a three-game winning streak end and slipped to fourth place.
In between Dayton and VCU is third-place Saint Louis (15-6, 6-2), which will take a four-game winning streak into its game against Dayton. The Billikens won 92-90 at George Mason (11-8, 4-2) in double overtime Wednesday. Yuri Collins hit a running floater at the buzzer to win the game, ending George Mason’s four-game winning streak.
Dayton has won three games in a row since a 50-49 loss at George Mason. All three of the victories came against teams nicknamed the Rams: Fordham; Rhode Island; and VCU.
The last victory in the sheep sweep helped Dayton climb from No. 76 to No. 55 in the Ken Pomeroy ratings. It’s one spot behind Davidson, the highest-ranked A-10 team, and two spots ahead of Saint Louis. Dayton also climbed from No. 76 to No. 60 in the NCAA Evaluation Tool.
Those are the highest rankings Dayton has had this season in either metric.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence,” Holmes said.
Dayton at Saint Louis, 2 p.m., ESPNU, 1290, 95.7
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