No. 20 Dayton Looks To Continue Streak With Akron
Flyers are in poll for first time in four years
Jan. 1, 2008
Dayton already owns a pair of impressive wins over Big East powers. But before it can worry about beginning Atlantic 10 play, it has a tricky non-conference finale against a state rival on tap.
The 20th-ranked Flyers, who are in the poll for the first time in four years, look to extend their winning streak to 11 games Wednesday night when they host Akron.
Dayton (11-1) has matched its best start since the 1955-56 squad won its first 14 games, and has moved into the rankings for the first time since 2003. The Flyers, who had already beaten Louisville, moved into the Top 25 after Saturday's 80-55 win over then-No. 6 Pittsburgh, the first loss of the season for the Panthers.
"That kind of win was maybe shocking to everybody, including myself, but I hope the ranking is for the 12-game body of work to this point of the season," Dayton coach Brian Gregory said Monday. "It's great recognition for our program and the effort our guys have put forth so far this season but they are mature enough to realize it is a long season."
There is cause for caution for Dayton, which went 10-3 in its non-conference schedule a season ago but only managed to split its 16 conference games as it failed to reach the postseason.
Dayton opens Atlantic 10 play next Wednesday at home against No. 23 Rhode Island.
The Flyers must first concern themselves with trying to end the five-game winning streak of Akron (10-2), which is off to its best start since joining Division I in 1980-81. It's a bit of a surprise for the Zips, who went 26-7 last season but graduated leading scorer Romeo Travis and point guard Dru Joyce.
Dayton is counting on Brian Roberts, the reigning Atlantic 10 player of the week, to again lead the way. The senior guard matched a season high with 31 points against Pittsburgh, also making five 3-pointers for the second time this season.
"Brian Roberts is phenomenal," Gregory said. "I've been saying for a long time he's the most efficient guard in the country, but now I think he's becoming one of the best."
Roberts is the only player to be ranked in the top five in the Atlantic 10 in seven different categories. He's fourth in the conference in scoring at 19.3 points per game and fifth in assists (4.6).
Dayton has won 17 straight non-conference home games since a 63-60 loss to Vanderbilt on Dec. 30, 2005.
Akron held on for a 79-73 win over Illinois-Chicago on Saturday in its last game. The Zips nearly blew an 11-point lead with 5:17 to play, and are still learning to adapt without their senior leaders from a season ago.
"Nate (Linhart) yelled at everyone in the huddle with 2:30 left when we were struggling, that we were doing the same thing we'd done in these situations before," Zips coach Keith Dambrot said. "But Nate will tell you this, that in crunch time the past two years, it was Dru and Romeo, now those guys are obviously gone."
Jeremiah Wood scored 18 points and Nick Dials added 16 Saturday for Akron.
Dayton has won eight straight against Akron - all at home - including a 77-66 victory on Dec. 23, 2004 in the last meeting.