In a game with massive implications for both the Atlantic 10 race and the NCAA Tournament, Dayton secured a hard-fought 75-74 victory over Rhode Island in Kingston.
Rhode Island’s defense was dominant for much of the first half. The Rams held Dayton to just 8-29 shooting from the field and racked up six blocks, three of which belonged to Hassan Martin. They also shut down Dayton point guard Scoochie Smith, holding him to just one point in the half. Smith wreaked havoc on the Rams the first time the two schools met this season and containing him was clearly a point of emphasis for Rhode Island.
Dayton needed a flurry of three pointers in the last few minutes of the half to stay within striking distance. For as poorly as the Flyers played on the offensive end for much of the first half, they had to be happy with just a 36-30 deficit going into halftime.
By pulling themselves closer at the end of the first half, Dayton was in position to completely erase Rhode Island’s lead three minutes into the second half. Two free throws from Kendall Pollard capped a quick 10-0 run to give Dayton a 37-36 lead.
From that point, the two teams went back and forth for the remainder of the game. Jared Terrell was able to break a tie to give Rhode Island the lead with just a minute to play, but Xeyrius Williams knocked in two clutch threes in the game’s final minute. His final triple ended up being the game winner, coming with seven seconds to play.
Rhode Island was unable to get off a final shot on the ensuing possession. Terrell tried to go coast-to-coast off the inbounds pass, but was stripped on his way to the basket. The Rams then had an opportunity to inbound from the baseline, but the ball was tipped and time expired.
Pollard led the Flyers in scoring with 17 points, though fans will better remember Williams for his late-game heroics.
With the win, Dayton temporarily moves into sole possession of first in the A-10, pending the outcome of VCU’s game against Davidson on Saturday.
Perhaps just as importantly as the change to the conference standings, Josh Cunningham returned to action for the Flyers. The sophomore played for the first time since Nov. 15 after suffering an ankle injury. He will add depth to a Flyers team looking to make a postseason run.
On the other hand, Rhode Island drops two games behind first place in the loss column. Furthermore, the loss to Dayton represents yet another missed opportunity at a signature win for a potential at-large resume. The Rams have an excellent win over Cincinnati to their name and could be granted some mercy from the selection committee due to the injuries they’ve suffered throughout the year. But the Rams are squarely on the bubble and won’t want to leave their fate in the hands of the committee if they can avoid it.