Anthony Grant hears from former Dayton Flyers all the time. He must spend almost as much time responding to text messages and phone calls as devising game plans these days as the victories mount and his program climbs higher in the national rankings.
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One of Grant’s former teammates, Sedric Toney, attended the game against St. Bonaventure on Wednesday at UD Arena. Toney, who scored 722 points in two seasons (1983-85) at Dayton, lives in Atlanta now, Grant said. His presence was just another reminder to the current players about what the future beyond Dayton has in store for them.
“A lot of great teams, great players, great coaches have been here,” Grant said. “When you’re a part of this family, you’re always a part of this family. There’s a lot of pride and a lot of responsibility for me and our guys to continue to represent the university and the community and the guys that have come before.”
Few of those guys experienced anything like what the current Flyers (17-2, 6-0) have enjoyed in the first 12 weeks of the season. Toney and Grant played for Dayton’s Elite Eight team in 1984. That team was 12-7 through 19 games. The more recent Elite Eight team in 2014 was 13-6. The 2020 Flyers, ranked seventh in the country, are even two victories ahead of the most famous Dayton team of all time, the 1967 group that reached the national championship game.
All those teams made their fortunes in the NCAA tournament, and this team can’t work on that legacy in January. However, it can improve its chances of advancing in March by continuing to win now, and it will put an eight-game winning streak on the line at 6 p.m. Saturday against the Richmond Spiders (15-4, 5-1) at the Robins Center.
Here are five things to know about Richmond:
1. The Spiders are playing short-handed: Richmond’s leading scorer, Wagner transfer Blake Francis (17.6 points per game), suffered a broken sternum Jan. 11 and will miss four to six weeks. He was Richmond’s leading scorer in its best victory of the season, tallying 19 points in a 62-52 victory against Wisconsin in November.
2. The injury hasn’t hurt Richmond yet: The Spiders are 3-0 without Francis. They won 70-64 at Davidson, 97-87 at George Mason and 74-57 at home against La Salle.
Guard Andre Gustavson replaced Francis in the starting lineup and has averaged 7.0 points per game in the last three games, improving his season average to 4.4.
3. Richmond is the opposite of Dayton’s last road opponent, Saint Louis, at the free-throw line: The Spiders shoot 80.5 percent at the line. That’s the second-best mark in the country. However, they don’t get to the line very often. They rank 323rd out of 353 teams in free-throw rate.
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Dayton beat Saint Louis 78-76 in overtime on Jan. 17 in part because the Billikens lived up their reputation as the nation’s worst free-throw shooting team. They’re shooting 56.1 percent but rank 33rd in the country in free-throw rate.
4. Richmond is one of the most improved teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference: After back-to-back losing seasons (12-20 and 13-20), Richmond owns its best record through 19 games since it was 16-3 in the 1987-88 season.
This season has provided vindication for Richmond’s Chris Mooney, who has coached in the A-10 longer than any other current coach. Just a year ago, fans paid to post a “Fire Mooney” message on a billboard in Richmond. Richmond stuck with him in part because the Spiders had a promising roster.
“We felt pretty good,” Mooney told The Athletic this month. “We all had an eye on how successful we could be in the future.”
5. This is a different team than the one Dayton saw a year ago: The Flyers and Spiders last met in the A-10 opener in January 2019 with Dayton winning 72-48 at UD Arena.
The Spiders did not have Nick Sherod then. He missed 27 games last season with a torn ACL. This season, he’s their third-leading scorer (13.2) and best 3-point shooter (51 of 122, 41.8 percent).
Richmond’s leading scorer in that game a year ago was Jacob Gilyard, who had 24 points and made 8 of 16 3-pointers. He averages 14.0 points per game this season.
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