Of all the crushing losses for the Dayton Flyers last season, including two overtime losses in Atlantic 10 Conference play, none hurt more than the 61-59 defeat at Mississippi State on Dec. 3.
At that point in the season, Dayton and its fans still had hope it could overcome a slow start. It was 3-3 entering that game in Starkville, Miss., and this was its first true road game.
»RELATED: What to know about Friday night’s game
The Flyers overcame 26 turnovers and a 21-point deficit to get a chance to take the lead twice in the final minutes. Darrell Davis made 1 of 2 free throws to tie the game with 1:08 to play and then turned the ball over with four seconds to go as the Flyers played for the final shot. The turnover led to a game-winning floater by Quinndary Weatherspoon over Josh Cunningham with 0.8 seconds to play.
What would have been an impressive victory for Dayton over a team that finished 25-12 overall and 19-2 at home instead set the stage for future troubles on the road. The Flyers finished 2-13 away from UD Arena.
One year later, Dayton (4-2) gets a rematch, playing Mississippi State (5-1) at 7 p.m. Friday at UD Arena, and with the Bulldogs ranked 25th in the Associated Press poll, this game is just as big an opportunity.
“Obviously, we’re looking for some revenge from that game,” Dayton guard Trey Landers said. “That’s just how we feel.”
Here are five storylines to follow Friday:
1. Familiar group: The Bulldogs returned their top six scorers this season, including two preseason All-Southeastern Conference selections: Weatherspoon, a 6-foot-4 senior guard, and 6-10 senior forward Aric Holman. Weatherspoon averages 17 points per game. Holman averages 11.5 points and 8.7 rebounds.
“We know they have a lot of returning from last year’s team,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “They’ve got some veteran pieces. A very talented group, a very well-coached group. We’ll have to be at our best to try to get the win.”
2. High expectations: The Bulldogs were picked to finish fourth in the SEC preseason poll. That was its highest preseason ranking in the poll since the SEC did away with divisions in the 2011-12 season.
Mississippi State also started the season ranked 18th in the AP poll. It was the first time it earned a preseason ranking since 2009.
3. Home advantage: Dayton opened the season with three straight victories at UD Arena. Counting the last five victories at home last season, its home winning streak stands at eight games.
This will be Mississippi State’s first true road game. It was 4-8 in road games last season.
4. Rare chance: This will be the first home game for Dayton against a ranked opponent since it lost 61-57 to No. 17 Saint Mary’s on Nov. 19, 2016. Its last victory against a top-25 team at home came on Dec. 7, 2011: 74-62 over No. 16 Alabama.
5. Building momentum: The Bulldogs shot 26.2 percent (33 of 126) from 3-point range in their first five games and made 45.8 percent (11 of 24) of their 3-point attempts Monday in an 88-65 victory against Alcorn State.
“The reason we were shooting such a poor percentage from the 3-point line,” Mississippi State coach Ben Howland told the Clarion Ledger, “is being rushed and anxious to want to get it going and shoot it rather than letting it come to you and being patient.”
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