Sitting at 1st and 2nd place in the conference, Dayton and Rhode Island meet once again for a massive A-10 showdown. At 9-2 in conference play Dayton currently remain tied atop the conference with VCU. Trailing just one game behind the Flyers and Rams at 8-3 in the A-10, Rhode Island seeks a conference title for itself. If the Rams want to stand atop the A-10 when this season is over, though, Friday night feels like a must win. Rhode Island dropped a close one at Dayton earlier this year and needs revenge in order to stay in serious regular season title contention.
Following a 70-62 win over UMass on Tuesday night, Rhode Island comes into this one riding a four game win streak. The Rams have won six of their last seven contests since dropping back to back games to Dayton and La Salle in January. Thankfully for Rhode Island, both E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin are finally back to 100% after going through injuries. So far this season Matthews is averaging 15.1 points per game to go along with 4.3 rebounds a night. Matthews is currently shooting the three at a 36% clip and can become a real nightmare for opposing teams when he gets going. As for Martin, he continues to average 14.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
Key to a Ram win
While Matthews and Martin are certainly one of the A-10’s most lethal guard-big combos, it will take more than just the two to knock off Dayton. Averaging 13 points per game, Jared Terrell is the only other Ram scoring in double digits consistently. In order to pull off the win over Dayton, Rhode Island needs guys like Terrell, Kuran Iverson, and Jarvis Garrett to step up in a big way. Possibly the biggest key to a Ram win Friday night, though, will be ball protection. Known for their tough defense, the Flyers forced Rhode Island to commit a staggering 18 turnovers the last time these two teams faced off. If Rhode Island wants to down Dayton, the Rams need solid performances from role players and a strong effort to avoid turnovers.
After holding off Saint Joseph’s Tuesday night, Dayton enters this showdown looking to grab its fourth straight win. Just like Rhode Island, the Flyers have won six out of their last seven games and continue to play with a conference title or bust mindset. With four players averaging over 12.5 points per game, Dayton can win in a variety of ways.
Led by A-10 Player of the Year candidate Charles Cooke, the Flyers can be dangerous on both ends of the floor. Cooke averages 16.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game but is also one of the conference’s best defenders. Add in elite on-ball defenders like Kyle Davis and Darrell Davis and it becomes easy to see why Dayton is so tough to beat. The Flyers force their opponents to commit an average of 15.5 turnovers per game and are one of the best teams in the country at capitalizing off of mistakes.
Key to a Flyer Win
In order for Dayton to grab a huge win at Rhode Island, the Flyers simply need to be themselves. Last year Dayton managed to take down the Rams on the road by playing True Team basketball. While the Flyers forced 18 Rhode Island turnovers in the first matchup this season, they did not defend the perimeter particularly well. The Rams knocked down 10 threes in the 67-64 loss. If Dayton wants to win again, the Flyers can not afford to let Rhode Island catch fire from behind the arc. All in all Dayton needs to bring its typically stifling defense and continue moving the ball with fluidity in order to defeat the Rams for a second time this season.
How to Watch
The highly anticipated rematch between Dayton and Rhode Island will air live on ESPN2. You can always catch it on WatchESPN as well, if you’re on the go. Make sure to follow us on Twitter @A10Talk for live in game tweets and coverage.