PITTSBURGH, PA. — All the Dayton Flyers applauded their fans who made the trip to the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse on Saturday as they left the court after a 72-52 victory against Duquesne. DaRon Holmes II and Malachi Smith took the extra step and walked over to hand out high fives to the fans in the front row.
A year ago, Dayton lost 69-64 in the newly-renovated arena as Duquesne played its first game on campus in 22 months. Only 212 spectators attended that game because of capacity restrictions during the pandemic.
This time, hundreds of Dayton fans were among the 3,012 spectators, and they witnessed one of the team’s best performances of the season. This was Dayton’s most lopsided victory in the building, which used to be called the Palumbo Center, since an 88-44 victory in 2002.
“I felt like we played with good effort in the first half,” Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said. “I thought they made some shots they haven’t made all season. Now they have made shots recently, so you can see them getting better. I didn’t think we had any energy in the second half, for whatever reason.”
Dayton (11-6, 3-1) joined Davidson (14-2, 4-0) and Virginia Commonwealth (10-5 3-1) on the list of Atlantic 10 Conference teams with three victories. Duquesne (6-9, 1-2) has lost two straight games after winning three in a row. It had a 20-day COVID-19 pause before winning 78-74 at Massachusetts in its A-10 opener on Jan. 8.
Tre Williams, Leon Ayers III and Primo Spears all scored 12 points for the Dukes, who lost in part because they made 5 of 19 3-pointers (26.3 percent) while Dayton made 8 of 18 (44.4).
“It’s simple for us: play hard and play together,” Dambrot said. “It sounds stupid and simplistic. We have some good individual pieces, but we haven’t shown we can consistently play together.”
Around the A-10: Davidson sits alone atop the conference after an 87-84 victory Friday at Richmond (10-7, 1-3). Junior Michael Jones scored 29 points and made the game-winning 3-pointer with 3 seconds to play.
The Wildcats have won 13 games in a row since opening the season 1-2 with losses to San Francisco and New Mexico State. It’s the longest winning streak in the country. Davidson is off to its best start since the 1969-70 season.
• St. Bonaventure (10-3, 2-0) beat Virginia Commonwealth 73-53 on Friday at the Reilly Center. Jalen Adaway led St. Bonaventure with 25 points. VCU (10-5, 3-1) suffered its first A-10 loss after beating Dayton, La Salle and George Washington.
• Saint Louis (11-5, 2-1) bounced back from its 68-63 loss to Dayton on Tuesday with a 63-45 victory at home Saturday against Fordham (9-6, 2-1).
Looking ahead: The Flyers play St. Bonaventure at 7 p.m. Tuesday at UD Arena. This game was originally scheduled for Jan. 2 but was postponed because of COVID-19 issues with the Bonnies.
Dayton leads the series 27-10 and has won six straight games. Dayton won 55-52 last season at St. Bonaventure and won 86-60 in the last meeting at UD Arena in 2020.