RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Dayton coach Anthony Grant knew that his No. 5 Flyers would face a stern test on the road at VCU, where he spent four years as the Rams’ coach.
His team got that, for sure, in the 150th consecutive sellout at VCU’s Siegel Center, yet the Flyers did just enough to extend their winning streak to 15.
“We were able to answer the bell every time we needed to,” Grant said after the Flyers held off a late challenge in a 66-61 victory that completed a sweep of the season series. The Flyers beat VCU 79-65 in Ohio on Jan. 14.
“We got hit with a lot of adversity tonight and our guys persevered,” Grant said. “Our thought tonight was about resiliency, it was about togetherness and we found a way to win.”
Jalen Crutcher scored 18 points, including four free throws in the final six minutes, and Obi Toppin added 12 for Dayton (24-2, 13-0 Atlantic 10). They were the highest ranked team ever to play at the Siegel Center.
“We knew coming into this game that it was going to be a dogfight for 40 minutes straight, so we just had to come out with the same intensity that they had,” Toppin said.
Trey Landers added 11 points for the Flyers, who made 17 of 24 free throws in the second half.
The Rams (17-9, 7-6) closed to within one possession several times in the last seven minutes, the last on Vince Williams’ putback with 27 seconds left, but Dwayne Cohill made a pair of free throws with 22.4 seconds left.
“They made enough plays to get out of here with a win,” said VCU coach Mike Rhoades, whose team lost its third straight and for the fourth time in five games. “Look, we’re close,” he added, “but nobody cares if you’re close.”
Nah’Shon Hyland led VCU with 18 points and Marcus Santos-Silva had 12 points and 17 rebounds, but the Rams turned 13 turnovers into just 10 points.
The game came two days after a team meeting that Rhoades said lasted nearly three hours and included “a lot of truth-telling,” he said, after consecutive losses to George Mason and cross-town rival Richmond.
The Rams used an 8-1 run to get within 52-50 with 6:18 left, but Dayton converted six of eight free throws to rebuild the lead to 58-51. Malik Crowfield’s 3-pointer and a free throw by De’Riante Jenkins pulled the Rams within 58-55, but Toppin scored inside and added a free throw.
Dayton: The Flyers were shooting well about 50% for most of the game before a dry spell in the second half that included a pair of ill-advised 3-point tries by Crutcher and Landers. They finished 19 for 42, 45.2%.
VCU: The Rams played without point guardMarcus Evans, their top passer and No. 3 scorer (10.3 ppg). Evans aggravated a left knee injury in VCU’s loss to Richmond last Saturday. In his absence, Hyland played point guard and fellow freshman Jimmy Clark also saw action, scoring four points.
The Flyers are at home against Duquesne on Saturday.
VCU is on the road at Saint Louis on Friday.
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