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Updated: Friday, March 14, 2003 11:37 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL PREVIEW
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No. 21 Dayton (22-5) at Saint Josephs (23-5)
DAYTON FLYERS
Dayton Flyers
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ST. JOSEPH'S (PA) HAWKS
St. Joseph's (PA) Hawks
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DAYTON (Ticker) -- With the backing of the home crowd at Dayton Arena, 21st-ranked Dayton looks to advance to the championship game of the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament for the first time when they meet St. Joseph's in a semifinal matchup Friday.

Dayton has made appearances in the semifinals in two of the last four seasons but lost to Xavier last season and St. Bonaventure three years ago.

The Flyers come into Friday's contest as one of the hottest teams in the nation. They have won 18 of their last 21 games will all three losses coming against ranked teams.

Dayton kicked off tournament play with Thursday's 74-57 victory over Rhode Island. Coming off an 11-day layoff, the Flyers showed no rust and displayed their versatility on both ends of the floor.

Keith Waleskowski, a second team all-conference selection, and center Sean Finn provided the inside presence for Dayton, which is 15-1 here. Waleskowski had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Finn added 15 and nine as Dayton outscored the Rams in the paint, 40-14.

St. Joseph's also is headed toward the tournament, but a win over Dayton and a trip to Saturday's title game could improve its seeding in the NCAA tournament.

The Hawks won the East Division and have been led by Jameer Nelson in their last five games. Nelson averages 18.7 points per game and had 15 in Thursday's 68-48 win over LaSalle.

St. Joseph's which has advanced to the championship game just twice, welcomed back Delonte West, who chipped in nine points in 15 minutes. He had not played the previous two games due to a stress fracture in his right fibula and was the Hawks' leading scorer for most of the season.

The lone regular-season matchup between the teams was Dayton's 66-56 home win on Feburary 15, when the Flyers shot 35 percent (19-of-54) and the Hawks clicked at just 32 percent (18-of-56).


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