Dayton is making headlines on and off the court amid a historic season. The No. 6 Flyers have won 11 straight games to zoom to a tie for their highest ranking since December 1967.
Before this season, Dayton primarily was known as the host site for the First Four, the play-in games in the NCAA Tournament. The Flyers (20-2, 9-0) enter Saturday afternoon’s home Atlantic 10 Conference game against Saint Louis with a full week of rest since beating Fordham on Feb. 1.
Dayton coach Anthony Grant, who played for the Flyers, said the community has been waiting for a breakout season for many years.
“This is a basketball town,” Grant said. “That’s probably an understatement, when you look at the history of the University of Dayton, what basketball is in this area. This is the beginning of March Madness each year. That speaks for itself.”
The rest of the Flyers’ home games are sold out, according to Dayton senior associate athletic director Scott DeBolt.
The Flyers haven’t played for the national championship since 1967, and fans are hoping this team can turn Dayton into a Final Four city. Still, they’re frustrated by the lack of home tickets, which are available only at inflated prices on the secondary market.
On the court, the Flyers have been nearly perfect. They need two more wins to equal their run of 13 consecutive victories set in 2007-08. Sophomore forward Obi Toppin has been on a tear, scoring at least 18 points in each of his past six games. Junior guard Jalen Crutcher is a player to watch after his string of 11 consecutive games in double figures ended with a three-point effort against Fordham.
Grant, who was a freshman on the Dayton team that lost to Georgetown in the Elite Eight in 1984, said his players are focused on building off their memorable start.
“There’s been a lot of great teams, a lot of great coaches who have been here,” Grant said. “So there’s a lot of pride and a lot of responsibility that our guys have to continue to represent the university, the community and the guys that have come before them.”
The Billikens (17-6, 6-4) had their three-game winning streak snapped in an 82-68 loss to Duquesne on Wednesday. Junior guard Jordan Goodwin scored a team-high 20 points, and junior forward Hasahn French had a memorable effort with 12 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in the home defeat. Goodwin enters Saturday’s game with five games of at least 20 points on the season.
French was named as one of 10 candidates for the 2020 Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award on Thursday. French is averaging a double-double of 12.2 points and 11.0 rebounds to lead the conference in rebounding and rank ninth in the country. Dayton’s Toppin also was recognized on the list.
–Field Level Media