Flyers beat Duquesne and George Washington by a combined 45 points in January
The Dayton Flyers starters have watched the final minutes of the last two games from the bench for different reasons. They had a big lead at Virginia Commonwealth, giving the reserves a chance to see some playing time last Wednesday, and they faced a double-digit deficit at Saint Louis, so the starters took a seat as the Billikens closed out a 72-61 victory on Saturday.
The players watched the end of the first game with smiles as they cheered, rising to their feet to applaud a dunk by freshman Kaleb Washington, and watched the second game with empty stares or looks of frustration.
This roller coaster of a season has provided many similar moments.
“It’s a tough thing to swallow,” guard R.J. Blakney said before practice Monday, “but it’s always about moving on to the next game.”
“We hate to lose,” guard Koby Brea said, “but sometimes you’ve got to go through it just to learn a little bit.”
Dayton (15-8, 7-3) will be a big favorite in two games at UD Arena this week. It plays last-place Duquesne (6-14, 1-7) at 7 p.m. Wednesday and George Washington (8-13, 4-5) at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Flyers beat those teams on the road by a combined 45 points in January.
Duquesne has lost seven straight games. That’s the longest losing streak of coach Keith Dambrot’s five seasons. The skid includes a 72-52 loss to Dayton in Pittsburgh on Jan. 15. The Dukes bring the A-10′s worst scoring offense (61.3 points per game in eight conference games) to Dayton to face the league’s best scoring defense. Dayton has allowed 56.2 points per game in A-10 play.
George Washington has gone 4-4 since losing 83-58 to Dayton on Jan. 8 in its first game in 26 days. The Colonials almost upset first-place Davidson (19-3, 9-1) on Saturday, losing 78-73 in Washington, D.C. The game was tied with a minute to play.
Dayton has eight regular-season games remaining. It will be favored in all but the road game at Richmond on March 1, according to KenPom.com, which predicts Dayton will finish 13-5 in the A-10. That record would likely land Dayton a top-four seed in the conference tournament for a team predicted to finish fifth.
Winning the regular-season championship is still a possibility, though Dayton will need some help from Davidson, which is also favored in all but one of its remaining eight games and is predicted to finish 15-3. Davidson was picked to finish sixth in the preseason poll.
This week, Dayton can continue to build on the success it has had playing at home. It has won four straight games at UD Arena since losing 53-52 to VCU in its A-10 opener.
“They understand the opportunity that we have and what our goals are and what we’re trying to do,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “In February, with the young guys, we’re making sure they’re mentally fresh and taking care of their bodies and getting rest. This next game for us, this next week for us, they’re all big, so we’ve got to make sure we keep our focus.”
Duquense at Dayton, 7 p.m., Spectrum News 1, 1290, 95.7