Watson’s body needs all the help it can get. He played all 40 minutes for the second straight game and fourth time this season and led Dayton with 22 points.
“I feel good,” Watson said. “I feel like I could play another one right now. That’s just a credit to our staff: (strength coach) Casey Cathrall and trainer Mike Mulcahey. They prepared us really well this offseason and make sure we get our treatment every single day.”
Watson made 9 of 14 field goals, including 4 of 8 3-pointers. He also dunked twice in the first half. The first dunk was his most impressive since a putback dunk at the end of the half in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational against Virginia Tech.
“I haven’t dunked in a while,” Watson said. “It felt good to get that one and another easy one in transition. It spoke to how we tried to come out aggressive today.”
Rhode Island was the more aggressive team early, taking a 25-16 lead with under eight minutes to play in the first half. Dayton outscored Rhode Island 13-7 to end the half and then started the second half with a 15-0 run.
The Flyers opened their last game against Rhode Island with a 17-0 run a year ago. This run, which included eight points by Watson, put them in control for the rest of the game. The Rams got no closer than eight points in the final 13 minutes.
Rhode Island missed its first 11 shots, including five on one possession, of the second half.
“I thought today was going to be about our ability to compete at a high level,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “We had a lot of respect for Rhode Island’s athleticism, their depth, their talent. The first 10 to 12 minutes, that was on display. They did a heck of a job coming at us. Our guys had to adjust to that level of physicality and athleticism. After that, the guys did a good job of taking advantage of what was there.”
Dayton shot 47 percent from the field, while Rhode Island shot 38 percent and 23 percent (5 of 22) from 3-point range.
Jalen Crutcher scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half and had seven of Dayton’s points in a row in one-two minute stretch.
Jordy Tshimanga had 11 points and eight rebounds. Mustapha Amzil scored 11 points. Elijah Weaver led the team with six assists.
Standings update: The victory moves Dayton (10-4, 6-3) into a tie for fourth place with Richmond (10-4, 4-2) and Massachusetts (5-4, 4-2).
St. Bonaventure (9-1, 7-1), Davidson (10-5, 6-2) and Virginia Commonwealth (12-4, 5-2) lead the conference. Rhode Island (9-9, 6-5) sits alone in seventh place.
Around the A-10: Another conference game was postponed Friday. Saint Louis flew to Richmond for a game against the Spiders but left without playing, citing concerns about Richmond’s COVID-19 protocols. Neither team had a positive COVID-19 test. Saint Louis did not reveal the specifics of why it decided not to play. The Billikens (7-2, 0-1) now have had nine A-10 games postponed.