John Cooper knows what lies ahead for his Miami University basketball team.
“They’re going to be one of the better teams we face,” Cooper said. “They’re tough. They’re physical. They’re very unselfish. They compete. They know who they are.”
The RedHawks are in rebuilding mode in Cooper’s first season and struggling to find their niche. UD has four double-digit scorers who are juniors and seniors, and the squad took down Alabama 81-76 on the road Wednesday.
Yet when these teams met last season, it was Miami that came away with a 72-67 overtime win. Dayton coach Archie Miller hasn’t forgotten.
“I talked to our team a lot about respect,” Miller said. “Coming back home, there isn’t a chance in hell that we need to think we’re lighting it up. It’s a rivalry game. They beat us a year ago. It’s a new staff. We don’t know how they’re going to play coming into our building on a Saturday night. We need to be fired up and intense and ready to go.”
Senior point guard Kevin Dillard (15.3) heads the UD offense, followed by backcourt mate Vee Sanford (11.9) and post men Josh Benson (11.6) and Devin Oliver (10.1). Oliver is grabbing 7.9 rebounds per game, while Dillard averages 4.3 assists.
“They’re up and down the floor, they really guard you in the halfcourt, and they’ve got unbelievable point-guard play in Dillard,” Cooper said. “
The RedHawks like to play pressure defense, but that starts with making shots, and MU is shooting 40.2 percent from the field.
Against Evansville, Miami’s defense barely showed up. The Purple Aces shot 63.2 percent and buried 14-of-18 treys.
“We’ve got to get the defensive end cleaned up,” Cooper said. “We’ve looked fatigued the past couple games, so we’ve got to figure that out. We’ve dealt with some depth issues, but that’s no excuse.”
“Our staff and our team are very interested in watching their new style,” Miller said. “They press, they really run, they drive. It will be a game like (the Alabama game), which is the opposite of Miami (in the past) where it can be a slugfest. We’ll see.”
Dayton holds a 68-61 advantage in the series. The Flyers have won nine of the last 12 meetings.
“Fans will be packed in there,” Cooper said. “It’s a basketball school. They get it. It’s a unique place, a unique atmosphere. That’s what you want to have.”