Reporters in Richmond on Tuesday tried to get Dayton Flyers coach Anthony Grant to look ahead to a Friday game against Virginia Commonwealth in Dayton.
Grant gave them an answer similar to most of his postgame quotes about the next opponent this season. He doesn’t think about the next game until he has fully processed the last game — even when that next opponent is a program he used to coach.
“I’m a moment-to-moment guy,” said Grant after an 87-81 victory over the Richmond Spiders. “Right now my total focus was on Richmond. I’m happy to get this win, our first road win of the season. We’ll go back tonight and tomorrow start our preparation for VCU. I haven’t had the chance to see them during the conference season. I saw them once early. I’m really impressed with their size and physicality and their grit. They’re a really well-coached team. For me, it’s more about just making sure our guys are doing the things we need to do to give ourselves the best chance.”
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Grant’s head coaching career began at VCU in the 2006-07 season. He took the program to heights it hadn’t reached in 20 years, winning a school-record 28 games in his first season, averaging 25 victories in three seasons and reaching the NCAA tournament twice.
Grant helped set the stage for the greatest run of success in VCU history. His successor, Shaka Smart, took the program to the Final Four in 2011 and began a streak of seven straight NCAA tournament appearances.
To extend that streak in Mike Rhoades’ first season as coach, the Rams (11-6, 3-1) likely will have to win the Atlantic 10 tournament, but they’re capable of doing that. Entering a 7 p.m. Friday game at UD Arena, VCU has won six of its last seven games.
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Grant coached against VCU in 2011 and 2012 when he was at Alabama, winning the first game 72-64 in Tuscaloosa and losing 73-54 the next season in Richmond. Rhoades was at VCU for both those games as an assistant on Smart’s staff. Rhoades was also the head coach at Randolph-Macon College, a Division III school just north of Richmond, when Grant was at VCU.
“I know Coach Rhoades and what he’s about in terms of the way he’ll coach his team,” Grant said Wednesday. “They’re going to play a really hard style of play that’s different than anybody we’ve played to this point.”
VCU leads the A-10 in scoring (78.1 points per game) and rebounding margin (plus 3.8). Dayton and VCU struggle with turnovers. They’re tied for 10th the conference in turnover margin (minus 0.5).
This game will show contrasting styles when it comes to pace of play. Dayton ranks 292nd in the country in average possession length (18.2 seconds). VCU ranks 73rd (16.2).
Dayton will try for the eighth time this season to win a second game in a row. It hasn’t had a winning streak of any kind since it beat VCU 79-72 on Senior Night on March 1 last season at UD Arena.
That was Dayton’s ninth straight victory, and it turned out to be the last win of the Archie Miller era. In the 19 games since that victory, Dayton is 8-11. The last time Dayton didn’t win two games in a row in a season was 1993-94 when it finished 6-21.
Grant was asked Wednesday if the failure to win back-to-game games has worn on him. He said he loves a challenge and his players are aware of their record after victories.
“It’s certainly something that’s eluded us to this point in the year,” Grant said.
VCU at Dayton, 7 p.m., ESPN2, AM 1290, News 95.7 WHIO