Dayton's Jalen Crutcher on Saint Louis game: 'We've got to protect our house'
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Keeping Saint Louis off the boards key for Dayton Flyers

Billikens dominated the rebounding battle in first game

“We’ve been winning when we wear red,” point guard Jalen Crutcher said, “so I think it’s a good thing.”

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Dayton has performed slightly better in that color than in the home white uniforms since the start of Atlantic 10 Conference play, compiling a 5-2 mark in away games and a 4-2 record at home. That’s a surprising stat for a team that finished 1-8 in A-10 road games last season.

Dayton (17-9, 9-4) earned its biggest victory of the season Tuesday by winning 74-73 at Davidson and can take another step toward claiming a top-four seed in the A-10 tournament if it protects its home court Saturday in front of a sold-out crowd. Here are four storylines to follow entering Dayton’s 27th game:

1. First rematch: In its last five regular-season games, Dayton plays four teams it has already played. Saint Louis is the only team in that group that beat Dayton. The 73-60 loss on Feb. 5 remains the lone A-10 game in which Dayton wasn’t competitive.

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Dayton trailed 10-0 in the opening minutes and then fell into a 34-14 hole late in the first half. It began a 13-0 run at that point but got no closer than seven points in the second half. The 13-point final margin tops the total points Dayton has lost by in its other three A-10 defeats (10).

“It was real frustrating,” Crutcher said, “but we just have to leave that in the past and move forward.”

2. Key stat: The Billikens lead the A-10 in rebounding margin (plus 6.2) and rank 13th in the nation in offensive rebounding (13.4 per game). They grabbed 19 offensive rebounds against Dayton and outscored the Flyers 26-13 in second-chance points.

“We’ve just got to be more physical and box out,” Dayton forward Josh Cunningham said, “and we’ll be fine.”

Dayton's Josh Cunningham: Saint Louis game important for A-10 seeding
Video: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

3. Inconsistent team: Saint Louis (17-9, 8-5) lost four straight games before its impressive performance against Dayton and then followed that victory with its most lopsided loss of the season, 91-61 at Saint Joseph’s. The Hawks had extra motivation in that game as their coach Phil Martelli’s dad died earlier in the week.

DAVIDSON GAME: Five takeaways20 photosNotes

“We’re not making as many shots and not defending at some points,” Saint Louis coach Travis Ford told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after the game. “It’s a bad combination. But every game it’s been something different. It was St. Joe’s tonight. They played really well. I thought they played hard for their coach tonight. When you play hard it’s amazing how good things happen.”

The Billikens rebounded by winning 73-58 at George Washington and then beating La Salle 62-49 last Saturday in St. Louis. They’ve had a week off to prepare for this game against Dayton.

4. Conference picture: There are five teams competing for the third and fourth seeds in the A-10 tournament. Dayton and George Mason are tied for third. Saint Louis, Duquesne and St. Bonaventure are all tied for fifth, one game back of the Flyers and Patriots. The top four seeds receive double byes into the quarterfinals in Brooklyn.

Virginia Commonwealth sits alone in first place at 11-2. Davidson fell into second place at 10-3 with its loss to Dayton.

“We’ve been in a lot of close games, a lot of big games over the course of the year,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “We’ve got five games left in the regular season, so our guys understand what we’re playing for. We want to finish strong.”

Anthony Grant: Dayton learning how to play with poise in close games
Video: David Jablonski - Staff Writer
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