Down-to-the-wire games the norm between Dayton-Davidson in recent years

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Dayton vs. Davidson: Highlights from last four minutes

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Flyers can clinch outright A-10 championship on Friday night

Four sports writers surrounded Dayton Flyers star Obi Toppin outside the locker room at EagleBank Arena after a 62-55 victory against George Mason on Tuesday. Toward the end of the interview, Dayton guard Dwayne Cohill turned on his phone and started filming Toppin.

MARCH FORECAST: Dayton chasing No. 1 seed

Of all the questions asked, Cohill had the best one: “How does it feel to be you?”

Toppin laughed when he heard Cohill’s question and didn’t give an answer, but it’s safe to say Toppin’s feeling well these days. The same goes for all the members of the fourth-ranked Flyers, who take a 17-game winning streak into a 7 p.m. Friday matchup against Davidson (15-12, 9-6) at UD Arena.

Dayton (26-2, 15-0) clinched a share of the Atlantic 10 championship Tuesday and almost secured the outright title Wednesday night when Rhode Island (20-7, 12-3) narrowly avoided an upset at Fordham (7-20, 1-14). Rhode Island won 76-75 on two free throws by Obi’s brother Jacob Toppin with six seconds remaining. Dayton instead gets a chance to clinch the outright title at home with a national television audience watching on ESPN2 and famed broadcaster Dick Vitale providing analysis.

Here are four things to know about this game:

1. Disappointing season: Davidson began the season with championship aspirations but finished 6-6 in non-conference play and then started the A-10 schedule with three losses in four games.

Roster issues played a part in Davidson’s struggles. Luke Frampton started the first five games and averaged 9.8 points but took a personal leave of absence and won’t play again this season. Senior guard KiShawn Pritchett has not played this season because of a knee injury. Another player expected to play a reserve role, David Czerapowicz, will miss the season after undergoing hip surgery.

» GEORGE MASON GAME: Flyers excited to clinch share of title

With three games remaining, Davidson is tied for fifth place with Saint Louis and Duquesne, one game behind St. Bonaventure in the race for one of the top four seeds and a double-bye in the A-10 tournament.

2. Improved performance: The Wildcats have played better in recent weeks, winning four of their last five games. They beat second-place Rhode Island 77-75 in overtime Saturday at Davidson and routed La Salle 74-49 in another home game Tuesday.

Davidson has been inconsistent in A-10 road games. It is 2-5. It lost 73-72 at last-place Saint Joseph’s (5-23, 1-14) in its last road game but routed St. Bonaventure 93-64 in Olean, N.Y., the game before that.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Highlights: Dayton Flyers beat Davidson

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

3. Memorable games: The last four games in this series have been decided in the final minute of the second half or in overtime.

On Feb. 24, 2017, Scoochie Smith scored 11 of his 17 points in overtime to lift Dayton to an 89-82 victory at Davidson. Two weeks later, Davidson's Jack Gibbs made two 3-pointers in the final minute as Davidson upset No. 1 seed Dayton 73-67 in the quarterfinals of the A-10 tournament in Pittsburgh.

» MORE ON LAST WIN: Grant calls Watson’s shot a big-time play

Two years ago, Dayton beat Davidson 65-64 at UD Arena thanks in part to a go-ahead 3-pointer by Jalen Crutcher with 56 seconds to play and two free throws by Trey Landers with 22 seconds remaining.

Last year at Davidson, Dayton built a 19-point lead in the second half only to have Davidson tie the game with 1:11 to play. The teams traded baskets in the final minute. Then Crutcher passed to Josh Cunningham under the basket, and he was fouled with 2.2 seconds left. He made 1 of 2 free throws to give Dayton a 74-73 victory.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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WATCH: Video of Scoochie Smith's clutch shots in overtime at Davidson.

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2. Star power: Davidson was the only team to place two players on the A-10 preseason first team: junior guard Kellan Grady, the 2019 A-10 Rookie of the Year, and senior guard Jon Axel Gudmundsson, the 2019 A-10 Player of the Year. They average 30.8 points between them.

Asked if he was excited to play Dayton by the Charlotte Observer, Gudmundsson said, "Oh, hell yeah. It's always fun to go play the top team in your division. We'll come out hungry. We have a lot to show."

“They’re talented and deep, but ultimately so are we,” Grady said. “We’ve gone through some growing pains this year, but we’re playing our best basketball right now. We get a chance to play in front of (13,000) people on ESPN against a top-five team in the country. That’s what you play for. We’re going in thinking we can win.”

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