Each of the 13,137 seats at UD Arena had a red towel draped over it before the game. Every player in the Dayton Flyers lineup wore their red road jerseys instead of the white home uniforms. Even the four transfers sitting out the season and the injured Jhery Matos wore the same red shirts.
A program built around the color red turned the dial up to 11 Saturday against Saint Louis, and a fan base that has often seen red while watching this team — agonizing over blown leads or double-digit deficits in the last two games, both decided by one point — enjoyed a relatively peaceful afternoon.
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The Flyers never let the Billikens get closer than six points in the final eight minutes, coasting to a 70-62 victory against a team that beat them 73-60 18 days earlier.
“Today was a big win,” Dayton point guard Jalen Crutcher. “It kind of separated us from them.”
Dayton (18-9, 10-4) moved into third place by itself, one game ahead of George Mason, Duquesne and St. Bonaventure (all 9-5). The Billikens (17-10, 8-6) fell into seventh place.
Each of those five teams is fighting for the third and fourth seeds in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament — Virginia Commonwealth (21-6, 12-2) and Davidson (21-7, 11-3) occupy first and second place — and Dayton now leads the pack with four games to play. Not only that, the Flyers have momentum. They followed Tuesday’s 74-73 victory at Davidson with a strong performance on both sides of the ball against the A-10’s preseason favorite.
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Here are three numbers that defined Dayton’s victory:
1. Outside shooting: Dayton made 10 of 22 3-pointers (45.5 percent). It was the ninth time this season Dayton has topped 40 percent.
The Flyers started cold, making 2 of 10 in the first 19 minutes. A 3-pointer by Crutcher with two seconds left in the half gave Dayton a 22-21 halftime lead, and the strong shooting carried into the second half when the Flyers made 7 of 11.
Crutcher made 4 of 8 3-pointers and scored 17 points. Jordan Davis tallied nine points by making 3 of 6 3-pointers. Ryan Mikesell scored 12 points and made 2 of 3-pointers. Trey Landers, who scored eight points, made the other 3-pointer.
Crutcher improved his season percentage to 37.3. He has made 62 of 166. He bounced back from an 0-of-5 performance against Davidson.
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“I’ve just been working on my shot,” Crutcher said. “Coach (Anthony Solomon) always tells me to get my feet centered to the rim. That’s what I tried to do, and I made some shots today.”
2. Offensive rebounds: Saint Louis grabbed 19 offensive rebounds in the first game against Dayton and outscored Dayton 26-13 in second-chance points. This time, the Billikens grabbed nine offensive rebounds, while Dayton had a 12-4 advantage in second-chance points.
“Coming into this game (rebounding) was our No. 1 priority,” Dayton forward Obi Toppin said.
3. Line struggles: While the Flyers didn't shoot the ball well at the free-throw line (12 of 20, 60 percent), the Billikens lived up their billing as one of the nation's worst free-throw shooting teams. They rank 351st out of 353 teams in Division I (59.9 percent). They made 6 of 14 against Dayton.
“We’re getting the ball where we want it,” Saint Louis coach Travis Ford said. “(Poor free throw shooting) is no surprise. We have to figure out a way to play within that.”
Dayton at Massachusetts, 7 p.m., ESPN+, AM 1290 and News 95.7 WHIO
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