Dayton beats No. 14 Xavier 71-58
DAYTON, Ohio (AP)—The streak that had dogged Dayton for three years is over, finally and emphatically.
Chris Wright led a balanced offense with 19 points, and Dayton ended its six-game losing streak against No. 14 Xavier with a 71-58 victory Wednesday night in a matchup of the Atlantic 10’s set of 20-win teams.
Using its depth and balance to full advantage, Dayton (22-3, 8-2) led the entire game against the defending two-time conference champions, who now have to work to make it three in a row.
Throughout their season of surprising success, Dayton has been reminded of its failure to do anything against Xavier (20-4, 8-2) in recent years. The Musketeers beat the Flyers three times in each of the last two seasons.
That talk can now end.
“In public, people would say that all the time, that they beat us six times,” Wright said. “We would be playing at Duquesne or even when we beat Marquette, everybody was talking about Xavier. We’re just happy to get that one out of the way.”
Xavier has lost back-to-back games for the second time this season, denting the Musketeers’ chances of a high seed in the NCAA tournament. The regular-season A10 title is now up in the air, too. The southwest Ohio rivals play again on March 5 in Cincinnati, where Dayton has lost its last 23 games since 1981.
Wright scored the last nine points for Dayton, which joined Duke and Duquesne as the only teams to shoot 50 percent from the field against Xavier. Derrick Brown led the Musketeers with 17.
“That’s the name of the game for us,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “We’ve got to get back to what makes us good. We’ve got to get back to tough-minded defense. It’s critical that we re-establish that.”
Both teams were coming off upset losses on the road set up by lackluster defense. There was no letting up Wednesday in the most-played rivalry for both teams.
“I think they played an all-around good game,” said Xavier’s C.J. Anderson, who managed only three points and one rebound. “They made tough shots. They rebounded the ball at both ends of the floor. They did a better job than we did.”
Dayton suffered a setback to its pressure defense when guard Rob Lowery hurt his right knee midway through the first half and didn’t return. He went down hard after getting off a shot in a crowd of defenders, and cradled his knee for several minutes. He didn’t put any weight on the leg as he was helped off.
Lowery apparently hurt a tendon in the knee. He’ll have surgery on Thursday to find the extent of the damage, probably ending his season.
“That kid’s given his heart and soul to this team,” coach Brian Gregory said. “We’ll find out tomorrow at the surgery what the situation will be.”
Lowery is a key to Dayton’s pressure defense, which is the stingiest in the Atlantic 10. It made its mark in the opening minutes, helping the Flyers pull ahead and set a tone.
Xavier turned the ball over on its first three possessions—Anderson drew two charging fouls, and the Musketeers had a shot clock violation. Dayton took advantage by pulling ahead 8-1. The Flyers led by as many as eight in the half, turning back a couple of Xavier rallied that cut the lead to one.
“We did a lot of pressuring,” said Marcus Johnson, who added 13 points. “We did a lot of good things on offense and defense. We did a lot of things to take away their offense. We stayed with it and they kind of backed off.”
With Lowery out, sophomore guard Stephen Thomas got an opportunity to play more than usual. Thomas, who hadn’t scored in the last seven games, hit a floating jumper and free throw in the closing minutes of the half, putting Dayton up 33-28 at the intermission.
The Flyers’ problems deepened when point guard London Warren picked up his third foul only 13 seconds into the second half. Still, Xavier had a hard time taking advantage and putting together a run that would get them a lead. A pair of 3s by Wright helped the Flyers extend the lead to 47-39 while Warren was on the bench.
Johnson made a driving basket and a 3-pointer, and Wright followed with a jumper in traffic that pushed the lead to 64-50 with 5:26 to go. Xavier never got closer than 10 the rest of the way.