A strong showing in Hawaii has propelled Dayton into the Top 25 for the first time in four years.
The No. 25 Flyers hope to continue their solid start Wednesday night when they host Delaware State.
Article continues below ...
Dayton (6-1) went 2-1 at the Maui Invitational to earn its first appearance in the Top 25 since it was ranked 18th during the week of Nov. 16, 2009. The Flyers improved to 5-0 by opening the event with an 84-79 win over then-No. 11 Gonzaga on Nov. 25.
After suffering a 67-66 defeat to then-No. 18 Baylor in the semifinals the next day, Dayton bounced back with an 82-64 victory over California in last Wednesday’s third-place game.
Averaging 16.8 points on 56.8-percent shooting in the last four contests, senior forward Devin Oliver scored a season-high 21 against the Golden Bears and earned all-tournament honors for a Flyers team that is off to its best start since opening 8-0 in 2008-09.
“I thought they came out (to Maui) with a business-like approach,” said coach Archie Miller, who joins his brother Sean, the coach of second-ranked Arizona, in the Top 25.
“Hopefully we can take this trip and build on it and take it to the next game.”
Dayton has a good chance to maintain its early success by playing as well as it did against Cal.
The Flyers shot 48.4 percent and Jalen Robinson’s 17 points helped Dayton’s bench outscore the Golden Bears’ reserves 52-8. Despite 31 points from guard Justin Cobbs, Cal shot 40.4 percent from the field, including 1 of 7 from 3-point range.
“Dayton does a great job in their man defense,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “They were very well-prepared. You know, tough Midwestern kids.”
Miller was perhaps most pleased that his team turned the ball over only four times after averaging 13.7 turnovers coming into that contest.
“It’s a miracle,” he said. “If our team can take care of the ball and get extra possessions, obviously it’s to our advantage. If we don’t turn the ball over we’ll have a chance to be successful, and that’s a big thing.”
Though Dayton has lost two straight and six of eight while playing as a ranked team, it’s won all four of its games against Delaware State (2-5) by an average of 21.3 points. In the most recent meeting, the Flyers overcame a 36.5-percent shooting performance to win 62-42 at home Nov. 19, 2008.
The Hornets’ only two victories this season have come against non-Division I opponents Cairn University and Baptist Bible. Delaware State has averaged 52.4 points and shot 36.8 percent while losing to Georgia Tech, Clemson, George Washington, Delaware and Buffalo by an average margin of 20.6 points.
Six-foot-10 junior Kendall Gray averages a team-leading 11.3 points but was limited to two on 1-of-5 shooting during the 72-47 rout of Baptist Bible on Monday.
The Hornets are facing their first Top 25 opponent since a 70-42 loss to then-No. 3 Pittsburgh on Dec. 8, 2010.