The Dayton Flyers celebrated an 82-76 victory over Davidson on Saturday at UD Arena as if they had won a conference championship.
DaRon Holmes II hugged everybody he saw, reserving the biggest embraces for his fellow freshman Malachi Smith, who at one point tried to jump on the back of Holmes. Coach Anthony Grant slapped hands with everyone in the front row of the Red Scare student section. Koby Brea, whose 3-pointer in the final minute gave Dayton the lead for good, blew kisses to the fans in the corner where the players’ families sit. Holmes, Smith and Brea all had high fives for the fans sitting on press row.
Holmes then did a postgame TV interview and posed for a photo with a young fan before celebrating with fans in every other corner of the court on his way to the locker room.
This was a great day for the Flyers and a great finish to the regular season, and the day got even better hours later when Saint Louis beat Virginia Commonwealth 69-65 in St. Louis to hand Dayton (22-9, 14-4) the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament.
“This was a huge game for our seniors and our team,” Holmes said. “It was coach Grant’s 100th victory. We wanted it for everybody. We’re doing it for each other. It made it feel special.”
Davidson (25-5, 15-3) had already clinched a share of the A-10 regular-season championship. VCU’s loss meant the Wildcats wouldn’t share the title. Dayton knew it wouldn’t get a chance to cut down the net Saturday or hoist a trophy, but it proved once again it will be one of the favorites at the A-10 tournament at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.
“We’re ready,” Holmes said. “It’s March.”
Dayton will play in the quarterfinals at 6 p.m. Friday against No. 7 seed George Washington (12-17, 8-9) or No. 10 seed Massachusetts (14-16, 7-11). Those teams play in the second round at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Dayton beat George Washington 83-58 and 80-54 in the regular season and beat UMass 82-61.
If the top seeds advance, Dayton’s path to the A-10 championship would continue at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against No. 3 VCU (21-8, 14-14). The Flyers and Rams split two games in the regular season.
The top seeds on the other half of the bracket will be No. 1 Davidson and No. 4 St. Bonaventure (20-8, 12-5). Dayton beat both of those teams at UD Arena.
Milestone victory: Grant is now 100-50 in five seasons. His overall record, including stops at VCU and Alabama, is 293-160.
“A lot of people played a big part in that,” Grant said. “That’s what I always think about that. We’ve had some really really good players, staff, support people, administration, our fan base. A lot of people make this possible. I’m grateful.”
Grant has a .664 winning percentage. His predecessor Archie Miller had a .688 winning percentage (139-63) in six seasons. Miller’s predecessor Brian Gregory had a .647 winning percentage (172-94) in eight seasons.
Injury update: Dayton guard Elijah Weaver sat on the bench Saturday with his arm in a sling one day after undergoing surgery on his left wrist.
“Successful surgery this morning,” Weaver wrote Friday on Twitter. “God is good.”
Dayton announced Feb. 25 Weaver would undergo season-ending surgery.
Recruiting update: Mike Sharavjamts, the only current member of Dayton’s 2022 recruiting class, sat behind the Dayton bench with his family Saturday. Centerville senior Rich Rolf, who is being recruited by Dayton, sat in the first row.
Maki Johnson, a 6-foot-3 guard from Huntington Prep in West Virginia, also sat behind the bench. He ranks 105th in the 2023 class, according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings.
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