Dayton vs. Loyola Chicago: 5 things to know about tonight’s game

Teams are tied for second place with three games to play

Loyola Chicago had played in every Atlantic 10 Conference arena except one — St. Bonaventure’s Reilly Center — in its first two seasons in the league entering this week.

The Ramblers traveled to New York’s Southern Tier for the first time as an A-10 member for a game Tuesday night. It’s one of the more difficult trips in the A-10 because it involves a flight to Buffalo, N.Y., or Bradford, Pa., and then a bus ride to St. Bonaventure. The students at the Reilly Center are loud. They sit close to the court.

Even when the Bonnies aren’t good, St. Bonaventure is a tough place to play as the Dayton Flyers found out last season in a 68-59 loss. Loyola had a similar experience Tuesday in a 79-64 loss that dropped it out of first place and ended a seven-game winning streak.

“I thought we had good intentions today,” Loyola coach Drew Valentine said in a game story posted on the Loyola website. “Today was similar to our losses earlier this year. Just a lack of competitive discipline that put us in a position where we were scratching and clawing from behind. A bunch of guys didn’t have it tonight, and that’s OK. We’re not going to have it every night and not play perfect every night.”

Despite that loss, the 9 p.m. game Friday between No. 21 Dayton (22-5, 12-3) and Loyola (20-8, 12-3) at Joseph J. Gentile Arena in Chicago ranks as one of the biggest showdowns in the A-10 this season. The teams enter the game tied for second place. They trail Richmond (21-7, 13-2), which won 80-64 at Saint Louis on Wednesday, by one game with three to play.

Dayton will play in front of a sold-out crowd. Loyola also sold out its last game against George Mason with 4,557 fans in the stands.

“They’re a really good team,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said of Loyola on Tuesday after an 80-66 victory against Davidson at UD Arena. “They’ve had a great year, and it’ll be a great challenge for us to be able to go on the road in that environment and try to get a win. It’s a quick turnaround. I know our guys will be excited to play.”

Here are five things to know about the game:

1. Improved opponent: After winning 25 and 26 games in their last two seasons in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Ramblers posted their worst record (10-21) since the 2011-12 season (7-23) in their first season in the A-10. They were picked to finish fourth in the preseason poll and finished last with a 4-14 mark in coach Drew Valentine’s first season. Five years earlier, they played in the Final Four.

Loyola started 2-3 this season. That stretch included a 72-67 loss at home to former MVC foe Illinois-Chicago, which is 11-19 and second to last in the MVC.

The Ramblers finished 8-5 in non-conference play. They have thrived since A-10 play started, losing only to Richmond (58-56 on Jan. 9 in Chicago) and at VCU (74-67 on Jan. 23) before running off seven straight victories to move into first place.

The final victory in the winning streak was an 80-59 decision against George Mason, which beat Dayton 71-67 in its previous game.

“This program is built on championships,” guard Braden Norris told the Associated Press earlier this month. “It’s great that we’re going to hit 20 wins here soon, the turnaround that we’ve had, but we’re here to win a regular-season championship — we’re in a great place — and then go on to Brooklyn and win three games in a row there (in the conference tournament) and then see what we can do in the (NCAA) tournament. That’s our goal.”

2. Series history: Dayton beat Loyola 85-81 in overtime last season at UD Arena and then won 65-49 at Loyola. Dayton’s DaRon Holmes II scored four points in the first game and 20 in the second.

Those were the first two meetings between the programs since 1993. The first game took place in the 1928-29 season. Dayton leads the series 34-16.

3. Players to watch: Philip Alston, a 6-6 fifth-year forward, leads the team with 12.8 points per game. He made a bank shot 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds to play to send the game at UD Arena to overtime last season.

Desmond Watson, a 6-foot-5 junior guard, averages 12.7 points per game. He played the last two seasons at another A-10 school, Davidson, and averaged 9.4 points last season.

• Dame Adelekun, a 6-8 senior forward, averages 9.3 points. He played the last three seasons at Dartmouth.

• Braden Norris, a 6-0 sixth-year guard from Hilliard, averages 8.7 points and a team-best 4.9 assists.

4. Strengths and weakness: Loyola has the 38th-most experienced roster in the country, according to KenPom, with an average of 2.64 years per player.

Loyola also has one of the deeper benches. It ranks 46th in the country in bench minutes (37.9%). Eleven players saw at least four minutes of action at St. Bonaventure. By comparison, Dayton’s reserves play 21.6% of its total minutes. That ranks 349th in the country out of 352 teams.

Loyola has the second-most efficient defense in A-10 play but the 10th-most efficient offense. It leads the A-10 in opponents’ 2-point field-goal percentage (44.0). It ranks last in turnover percentage (19.1)

5. Odds and rankings: gives Dayton an 83% chance of winning this game. Dayton ranks 20th in the NCAA Evaluation Tool. No. 95 Loyola is the seventh-highest-ranked A-10 team.

This is a Quadrant 2 game for Dayton because it’s a road game against a team that ranks between 76 and 135. Dayton is 3-3 in Quad 1, 5-2 in Quad 2, 7-0 in Quad 3 and 7-0 in Quad 4.

This is a Quad 1 game for Loyola. It is 0-3 in Quad 1 with losses to Creighton, Florida Atlantic and St. Bonaventure.


Dayton at Loyola Chicago, 9 p.m., ESPN2, 1290, 95.7

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