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Published: Monday, February 10, 2020 @ 11:14 AM
DAYTON — Dayton Flyers star Obi Toppin started the trash talk Thursday and continued it Saturday. His brother Jacob, a freshman at Rhode Island, joined the fight that evening, responding a Twitter video that showed Obi talking about getting on SportsCenter by dunking on his brother.
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“You gonna be on SportsCenter for the opposite reason you thinking about,” Jacob wrote.
Even Roni Toppin, their mom, had to come to Jacob’s defense after seeing the video.
“Obi has 2 years on Jacob,” she wrote. “Don’t pick on your little brother.”
The Dayton vs. Rhode Island game at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at UD Arena would be a big one even without this family rivalry. No. 6 Dayton (21-2, 10-0) has won 12 games in a row and sits alone atop the Atlantic 10 Conference. Second-place Rhode Island (18-5, 10-1) has won 10 games in a row since losing its A-10 opener, 69-61 at home to Richmond.
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Each coach, Dayton’s Anthony Grant and Rhode Island’s David Cox, rank among the top 20 candidates for national coach of the year, according to HeroSports.com, and one will earn an impressive victory this week. Cox told reporters in Rhode Island Saturday there was pure excitement surrounding this game.
“This is what you dream about,” Cox said. “This is what you get into college basketball for as a player and surely as a coach. Away game. There will be 12,000 people in there. They’ll be going crazy.”
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Cox said Dayton, which ranks second in the nation in assists per game (18.4), shares the ball at a whole new level.
“They’ve got probably the best player in college basketball on their team,” Cox said. “They’ve got a seasoned, veteran coach who has coached at the highest level. It will be a challenge, of course. But this is what I’ve dreamed of.”
Each team won on the other’s court a season ago. Dayton dominated the first game, winning 77-48 in Kingston.
Three weeks later, Rhode Island responded with a 72-70 overtime victory in Dayton. Trey Landers just missed what would have been a game-winning tip-in at the buzzer in the second half. Dayton then lost in overtime by missing its last three shots and committing two turnovers in the final two minutes.
Neither team was expected to win the A-10 this season, but they have pulled away from the pack to become the favorites entering the final month.
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“We certainly have a lot of respect for what they’ve been able to accomplish,” Grant said Saturday. “Our teams when we get together, they’re typically really good games.”
Here are five things to know about this Rhode Island team:
1. Defense is the strength of the Rams: They rank fifth in the country in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (28.2 percent) and 13th in steal percentage. They rank 28th in defensive efficiency. Only VCU, which is 21st, ranks higher among A-10 teams.
2. Fatts Russell is the player to watch: The junior guard is one of the most improved players in the A-10. He averaged 14.2 points per game last season and leads the conference with 20.3 points per game this season. He’s shooting 35.8 percent from 3-point range this season after shooting 22.3 last season.
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Russell did not score in the first game against Dayton a year ago and then scored 23 in the second.
3. Rhode Island is not a deep team: It ranks 317th out of 353 teams in the country in bench minutes. Reserves play 23.7 percent of the minutes. Four starters average between 30 and 36 minutes. Jacob Toppin is one of the key reserves, averaging 4.8 points in 18.9 minutes per game.
Dayton leans heavily on its starters as well. It ranks 276th in bench minutes with reserves playing 26.4 percent of the minutes.
4. The Rams don’t shoot many 3-pointers: They rank last in the conference in 3-pointers attempted per game (17.6) and 10th in 3-point percentage (32.8). Dayton leads the A-1o with 528 attempted 3-pointers and 37.1 percent shooting from outside.
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5. Rhode Island overcame some struggles in non-conference play: The Rams had two strong victories and no bad losses until they lost their final non-conference game 85-75 to Brown, a team that ranks 237th in the NCAA Evaluation Tool. The loss to Richmond followed.
Since then, Rhode Island has climbed to 39th in the NET, and if it beats Dayton, which ranks fifth in the NET, it will have the best victory of any A-10 team this season.
Rhode Island at Dayton, 7:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network; 1290 and 95.7 WHIO