Dayton Flyers: Freshman earns first career start

Anthony Grant adjusts lineup for first time since early in A-10 play

Dayton Flyers coach Anthony Grant didn’t have a lot to say after the game Tuesday when asked about Zimi Nwokeji’s 29-point performance against Rhode Island, and when asked again about Nwokeji on Wednesday, he had a similar answer.

“Well, we didn’t win the game,” Grant said, “and at the end of the day, that’s why you play.”

Dayton lost 91-89 in double overtime despite Nwokeji scoring the second most points by a freshman or redshirt freshman in school history. On Friday, Nwokeji was rewarded for his play with a spot in the starting lineup. He wasn’t as productive but was efficient, scoring seven points on 3-of-4 shooting and grabbing six rebounds in 25 minutes.

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More importantly, Dayton won the game, beating Saint Louis 76-53 to avoid its first three-game Atlantic 10 Conference losing streak in seven years.

“I think what Zimi’s been able to do is give us energy and great effort,” Grant said. “I thought he did a really good job tonight with the matchup he had. It’s just all about finding a group of guys who can do what we need to do both offensive and defensively. I thought Zimi earned that tonight.”

Rodney Chatman also started for the first time since Dec. 30 when he suffered a torn ligament in his right hand that cost him 11 games. He returned to action at Rhode Island but did not start. Chatman and Nwokeji replaced Elijah Weaver and Mustapha Amzil in the lineup.

Schedule update: The Flyers (12-7, 8-6) will play at last-place Saint Joseph’s at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Hagan Arena in Philadelphia.

The game was added to the schedule on Friday. After playing Saint Joseph’s, Dayton has one more game before the A-10 Conference tournament, which starts March 3 in Richmond., Va. It will play at Saint Bonaventure (10-3, 8-3) at a time to be announced on Feb. 28.

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A scheduled home game against VCU on March 3 won’t take place because of the A-10 tournament moved up a week, though Dayton and VCU might not have played anyway. They already played twice in the regular season.

Dayton was scheduled to play a home game against Saint Joseph’s on Feb. 13. Saint Joseph’s (2-14, 1-9) had to postpone that game and four others because of COVID-19 issues.

Saint Joseph’s had not played since Jan. 30 but returned to action Saturday with a 91-82 overtime victory at home against La Salle. Senior guard Ryan Daly scored 30 points for the Hawks on 14-of-19 shooting. The Hawks forced overtime on a last-second layup by Jordan Hall.

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