No. 15 Dayton bids to extend UMass’ A-10 road woes

NCAA Basketball
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After opening the Atlantic 10 portion of its schedule with a pair of road victories, Dayton aims to carry that league success over to its home court in Ohio.

Looking to run their home winning streak to 10 games on Saturday, the No. 15 Flyers host a Massachusetts squad that hasn’t won a conference road game since defeating Dayton more than two years ago.

One of the must-see teams of the 2019-20 season, Dayton (13-2, 2-0 Atlantic 10) is in position to start 3-0 within the league for the third time in four seasons. The Flyers rolled to an 84-58 win over La Salle in their conference opener on Jan. 2 and used a strong second half in an 80-67 victory over Saint Joseph’s on Sunday.

“Anytime you can start the league with two wins on the road in a row, that’s a good thing,” said Dayton coach Anthony Grant, whose squad has won four straight.

Dayton showed last weekend that it’s more than just a one-man force.

Star sophomore and national player of the year candidate Obi Toppin (19.5 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game) dealt with foul trouble against Saint Joseph’s, but Ryan Mikesell and Trey Landers each scored 18, Ibi Watson (11.5 ppg) added 15 off the bench and Jalen Crutcher (12.9 ppg) had 10 with 10 assists as the Flyers shot 55.6 percent in the second half.

It was the type of team effort that Dayton likely will need to repeat in the second half of the season, especially during the A-10 Tournament and what is shaping up to be a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

“I just know our team is going to work every single day to become better and better,” Toppin, who finished with 15 points after totaling 51 in the previous two contests, told NCAA.com.

“Just because, we know when we get to the (NCAA Tournament) we’re going to be a problem. It’s going to be a surprise to everybody when we get there, and we can’t wait for that.”

Now, Dayton looks to stay hot at home, where it last lost on March 1. The Flyers have averaged 84.4 points and shot 53.9 percent while holding their opponents to 61.9 points per contest in going 8-0 at home this season.

They’ve won five of six at home over UMass (7-8, 1-1 Atlantic 10), which looks to snap a 17-game conference road losing streak that dates to a 62-60 win at Dayton on Jan. 6, 2018. Guard Carl Pierre scored 15 points against the Flyers in that contest.

Pierre (14.5 ppg) scored 20 on 7-of-8 shooting while recording his 1,000th-career point to help UMass win for just the second time in 10 games, 77-69 over La Salle on Wednesday.

Freshman Tre Mitchell (14.7 ppg) scored 19 and Samba Diallo added 12, 12 rebounds, six assists and three steals as the Minutemen shot 49.0 percent to record their first league victory.

“It’s a process,” said Pierre, who has averaged 19.8 points and shot 51.5 percent over five games.

“I think (against La Salle) we just finished possessions … hit free throws, got stops at the end. I think it’s just a manifestation of the process.”

UMass, which has not posted more than five league victories in each of the last three seasons, last won back-to-back A-10 games in January 2018.

–Field Level Media

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