Richmond, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - Dayton received 19 points from Jordan Sibert and held on down the stretch to earn a 59-55 victory over 22nd-ranked VCU in an Atlantic 10 clash with major ramifications.
The win, the Flyers' fifth in six games, enabled Dayton (22-6, 12-4 A-10) to keep a share of first place in the tight conference race with two to go in the regular season. The Flyers entered Saturday's matchup in a four-way tie with VCU, Davidson and Rhode Island for the A-10's top spot.
Dayton will host Rhode Island, which downed La Salle earlier in the day, on Tuesday.
VCU (21-8, 11-5), meanwhile, continued its recent downward spiral. The Rams owned a comfortable lead atop the A-10 in late January after getting off to a 7-0 start, but have since gone 4-5 in league play.
Kendall Pollard added 16 points and six rebounds for the Flyers, but fouled out with under five minutes remaining and the Rams began to draw closer after trailing 51-45 at the time of the disqualification.
VCU moved within 57-55 in the final minute of play and had a chance to take the lead in the waning seconds. However, Treveon Graham misfired on a deep 3- point try and Mo-Alie Cox was unable to get his shot to fall after grabbing the rebound underneath.
"Just rushed my shot," said Alie-Cox of the play.
Both Alie-Cox and Graham finished with 12 points in defeat. Alie-Cox pulled down 10 rebounds as well, but Graham went 4-of-14 from the field and missed seven of eight tries from long distance.
VCU shot just 34 percent as a team and forced only eight turnovers, nearly nine below its season average.
Dayton never trailed after consecutive layups from Pollard and Sibert erased a 26-24 deficit with 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the first half. The Flyers were up by as many as nine in the second, but the game's momentum began to shift when Pollard made contact with Alie-Cox on a block attempt with 4:56 left to play.
The Rams proceeded to go on a 9-4 run and cut the lead to one on three separate occasions, the last on Doug Brooks' runner with 1:55 left that made the score 55-54.
Dyshawn Pierre followed with two free throws to send the Flyers back ahead by three. Graham was fouled while scoring inside on the ensuing possession, but missed the free throw to keep the margin at two points.
Pierre then couldn't got an off-balance shot to fall down, giving the Rams the opportunity to tie or go in front. They couldn't, and Sibert sealed the outcome with two successful free throws with 2.5 seconds on the clock.
"I never felt they hit us with that knockout-blow run where the crowd really just erupted," Dayton head coach Archie Miller said. "The last five minutes were a little bit hard. We were able to stem those off. We had some guys step up and make plays. That's what you have to do against VCU."
The game began with Dayton missing its first seven shots and the Rams opening with an 11-4 run in which Brooks scored the final six points. The Flyers would regroup, however, to surge ahead by the end of the half.
A beyond-the-arc basket by Sibert and Pollard's 3-point play sent Dayton ahead by a 24-23 count with under six minutes to go in the period, and the two teamed up for a 6-0 spurt shortly afterward to give the Flyers a 30-26 lead. VCU's Melvin Johnson and Pierre then traded treys as Dayton went into the break owning a 33-29 edge.
Sibert poured in 15 points prior to the intermission.
Pollard and Scoochie Smith then connected on back-to-back jumpers early in the second half to lengthen Dayton's lead to 37-29.
VCU will visit Davidson in another key A-10 battle on Thursday ... Pierre posted 13 points and seven rebounds for Dayton ... The Rams finished 6-of-25 from 3-point range, including a 2-of-14 display in the second half ... The win was the Flyers' first over the Rams since a 74-64 home triumph on Jan. 11, 1986. VCU had taken the previous two meetings between the schools as A-10 members ... The Rams recorded only three points off turnovers.