By Hal McCoy
Dayton, OH. — There isn’t a trap door, as far as anybody knows, located anywhere on the University of Dayton Arena basketball floor.
But as far as the UD Flyers are concerned. . .beware.
A game Wednesday night against Oakland University is a trap waiiting to snap.
There is no doubt the Flyers are flying high after Saturday night’s invigorating 82-68 destruction of the University of Cincinnati. And there is no doubt that euphoria remains.
But Oakland, a member of the Horizon League, is no cupcake with sprinkles and the Flyers need to put the intoxicating UC victory in their rear view mirror and focus on the windshield.
The Golden Grizzlies have taken on an ambitious schedule this season for a mid-major and on Monday, two days before coming to UD Arena, they took on Michigan State.
They are only 6-6, but they beat Xavier at the Cintas Center, 78-76, and narrowly lost to Ohio State, 79-73, and to Illinois, 64-53. And they lost to a solid Drake team, 85-77.
Oakland is one of those teams considered a buy-for-a-victory. UD is paying them a handsome stipend to come to town, take a beating, then take their fat check and go home.
It probably won’t be that easy.
And the Flyers have another facet to protect and improve. They are ranked 30th in the nation in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET), the main tool the NCAA uses to select at-large teams for the tournament.
And speaking of the NCAA tournament, the Flyers’ stunner over UC was played in a thunderous atmosphere that resembled a game in the Final Four.
It was played in decrepit and decaying Heritage Bank Center in downtown Cincinnati in front 12,547 fans, nearly equally divided. The supporters on each side nearly lifted the roof on each basket, rebound and turnover and the Flyer Faithful won the Decibel Duel, as they always do
Coach Anthony Grant and his staff came up with a defensive scheme that baffled and befuddled the Bearcats. UC’s offense resembled five men running from a snake in five different directions.
Said Simas Lukosius, a 6-8 guard from Lithuania who came off UC’s bench to lead the Bearcats with 14 points, “They (UD) did a good job on our reversals. The ball stayed with one person, we weren’t able to move the ball. We started playing one-on-one the whole time and that didn’t work out for us.”
And UC coach Wes Miller added, “We were searching defensively. We couldn’t stop ‘em and that’s unacceptable. We’re not going to be the team we’re capable of being if we have to search to get a stop.”
They could not stop DaRon Holmes II from scoring 28 points and they could not stop Kobe Elvis from scoring 27 points. . .and, no, he does ’t wear blue suede shoes. They could not stop Koby Brea from bombing four three-pointers.
“First of all, I’m really proud of our guys for the effort they gave this week in preparation for the game,” said Grant. “I thought all the things we talked about, things we needed to do, they showed great maturity and a great level of toughness and togetherness to come out with the win.
“It was great to see the crowd that showed up,” he added. “Obviously, the Flyer Faithful were awesome. We’re proud of that.
The game was the first in 13 years between two teams separated by only 50 miles and the game displayed what could be if they got back together on a yearly basis.
Miller supports the resumption of it.
“The atmospher was terrific, just terrific,” he said. “That was a great college basketball atmophere. Both fan bases, you could tell, were present. We didn’t give our fans quite enough to cheer about.
“With scheduling, there are so many conference changes and we’re going to 20 league games next year (in the Big 12).
“But it’s not something I don’t want to do,” he added. “Sometimes coaches say, ‘Don’t play local games’ because if you lose everybody’s pissed off. I think that’s a bunch of b.s. These games get you ready for league play.
“The fact that people get all charged up for ‘em. . .that’s good,” he said. “That’s good for our growth. I hate that we lost two of ‘em this week (UC also lost to Xavier). That stinks. It’s terrible.
“But I’m not afraid of that. We’re not gonna not play good teams locally because we’re worried about what the hell people think. That’s a good game for Cincinnati. So I’m not opposed to it looking forward, but the reason we could or couldn’t play sometimes are hard to figure out.”
So there you go. Let there be more Miller Time.