Justin Tillman had 18 points and nine rebounds and VCU pulled into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 with a 73-68 victory against Dayton on Friday night.
Ahmed Hamdy added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Rams (16-5, 6-2), who finished the night tied with the Flyers (15-5, 6-2) and crosstown rival Richmond.
The Rams used a 20-6 run spanning the halves to turn a 10-point deficit into a 41-37 lead early in the second half. Dayton rallied, taking its first lead of the second half at 48-46 on Darrell Davis’ 3-pointer with 9:21 remaining, but a 3-pointer by JeQuan Lewis sparked an 11-1 run for the Rams over the next five minutes.
Kendall Pollard led Dayton with 19 points and Charles Cooke had 11.
Dayton trailed by as many as 11, but pulled within three with five seconds left before JeQuan Lewis clinched it with free throws for VCU.
The matchup was the first of two for the rivals, who will also meet in the penultimate game of the regular season at Dayton on March 1.
Dayton: The Flyers are a very veteran team, and it shows especially against a team like VCU, which still tries to create havoc on occasion, but the Rams managed just two steals on the night. Dayton also isn’t all that tall, but their commitment to defense caused a few 30-second violations against the Rams, and a whole lot of shots that had to be rushed to beat the shot clock. That approach bodes well for postseason play.
VCU: One of the Rams’ real question marks coming into the season was low-post scoring, but improvements by Tillman and Hamdy have been dramatic as the season wears on, and it doesn’t hurt that Tillman is making nearly 60 percent of his shots and has become by far VCU’s best rebounder.
Dayton: The Flyers stay on the road, again against the Rams when they face Fordham on Tuesday night.