DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- Rhode Island's best start in six decades hit a speed bump in Dayton.
Brian Roberts scored 23 points as the Flyers (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) withstood a furious second-half rally by the Rams (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP) in a 92-83 victory Wednesday night in the Atlantic 10 opener for both teams."It was a great heavyweight fight with two teams going back and forth," Dayton coach Brian Gregory said. "It speaks volumes of where our league is at to have two teams of that caliber go out there and perform the way they did in a big game."Dayton (13-1) used its bench and a balanced scoring attack to extend its winning streak to 12 games."You saw two teams that really relied on their depth, and both teams utilized that depth," Gregory said. "We got a lot of big plays from a lot of big players."Jimmy Baron had 26 points for the Rams (14-2), many on open looks off screens, while Will Daniels added 25. Rhode Island had been off to its best start since the 1946-47 team began 15-1."We did a great job of showing tremendous courage. This is one of the toughest places in the country to play," said coach Jim Baron, Jimmy's father. "We made a great comeback. You've got to play hard and can't give them open shots."After trailing 54-41 at halftime, Rhode Island staged a comeback behind the shooting of Baron and Daniels. The Rams cut Dayton's lead to 73-70 with 6:34 left, but driving layups by Andres Sandoval and Charles Little gave the Flyers a seven-point cushion.However, six straight points by Daniels, including a twisting layup and a dunk, cut the lead to 82-78 with 1:31 to go. A 3-pointer by Dayton's Marcus Johnson from the base line with 58 seconds remaining gave the Flyers an 85-78 lead and put the game out of reach.The Flyers shot 62 percent from the field and were 19-of-28 from 3-point range. Johnson finished with 14 points, Sandoval had 12 and center Kurt Huelsman 10.Guard Mickey Perry, a transfer from Wisconsin playing his first game for the Flyers, scored eight points, including two 3-pointers.Dayton outrebounded the Rams 32-29.Daniels came alive in the second half to pace the Rams' comeback, scoring 15 of his 25 points. But he picked up his fourth foul with 5:47 left and spent several crucial minutes on the bench.Rhode Island ramped up its defense in the second half, deploying traps and double teams. But the Flyers neutralized it by finding the open man.Roberts, Dayton's go-to scorer, was able to overcome getting double- and sometimes triple-teamed. He scored nine of his 23 points over the final 2:29."We knew how tough it was going to be. Even with a lead we knew they were going to fight back," Roberts said. "We had a lot of good plays from a lot of guys. It shows our toughness and maturity as a team. With everybody stepping up it shows we are a balanced, solid team."Dayton shot 74 percent from the field in taking a 54-41 halftime lead."They were terrific in the first half. They really came out on fire and made some great shots," Jim Baron said. "Brian Roberts is a great player."The victory gave Dayton its longest winning streak since a 19-game run bridging the 1967-68 and 1968-69 seasons.