After a first round victory, the University of Dayton men’s basketball team finds itself facing a far-too-common opponent in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament.
Dayton (20-10, 10-7 A-10) defeated George Washington 67-50 Tuesday night for the second time in four days. Now, the Flyers fly down to Atlantic City, N.J., to face archrival Xavier. Friday at 9 p.m. in Boardwalk Hall. Dayton redshirt junior point guard Kevin Dillard said after Tuesday’s game that the Flyers are getting settled for another battle with Xavier.
“Yeah, we want to prepare and we’re going to prepare the right way and get ready to play them,” he said. “We know we have a challenge on our hands. But, to get to the championship game you have to take care of your next opponent and that’s them.”
The Flyers hold an 84-73 edge in the all-time series between the two schools, but Xavier has dominated over the past 20 years. The Musketeers have won 35 of the last 47 meetings. More importantly, Xavier (19-11, 10-6 A-10) has been a pain in the side of Dayton’s postseason hopes. Dayton is 2-6 against Xavier in conference tournament play including three losses to the Musketeers over the last four A-10 tournaments.
Friday’s contest will make this the third consecutive year in which Dayton and Xavier will face each other in the conference tournament. Last year, the Flyers upset then No. 1 seeded Xavier 68-67 on senior forward Luke Fabrizius’ game-winning free throws.
This year No. 6 seed Dayton will look to avenge a loss earlier in the season to No. 3 seed Xavier. The Musketeers held off Dayton 86-83 in overtime for the 26th consecutive Xavier win in Cincinnati on Feb. 18.
Xavier is led by senior guard and First Team All-Atlantic 10 selection Tu Holloway. Holloway leads the team in scoring (16.7), assists (5.4) and steals (1.6). The last time against Dayton, Holloway had a season-high 32 points and made several clutch shots that deflated the Flyers.
First-year Dayton head coach Archie Miller said this season’s third matchup against Xavier is more about competing than game planning with the teams being so familiar with each other.
“We know them,” he said. “They know us. I think all that stuff is pretty much out the window. It’s going to be a game of execution of effort. It’s going to be a game of guys just being able to make plays. ... There’s a lot of tremendous players who are able to make plays at the end of the game.”
For Dayton, senior forward Chris Johnson will be the key. Over the last 12 games, Johnson has kept Dayton afloat after a four-game losing streak in the middle of the conference schedule. The Columbus, Ohio native has averaged 17.1 points and 7.8 rebounds over that span as Dayton went 6-6.
Surviving is the name of the game now for the Flyers in postseason play. When asked after the George Washington game how he felt about a 20-win season, Miller joked:
“I feel good,” he said. “We got 20. And hopefully, we get 21.”