It took all of one possession to fully understand that Charlie Coles is no longer with us. Coaching, I mean. He’s probably still alive. Charlie’s offense, which I think was conceived during an acid trip in Yellow Springs, emphasized never shooting until you see the white of an opponent’s eye. Much like an NFL team going from a drill sergeant to a drunk uncle, John Cooper instilled an offense that seems to emphasize shooting the ball whenever you damn well please. That is a welcome change, assuming this uninspiring “rivalry” will continue in the future.
The RedHawks now run some very NBA-like sets, spreading the floor and allowing the point guard to read and react to the rotations of the defense. The ad-lib nature of Miami seemed to confuse Dayton early, leading to slow rotations and wide open shots, and the ‘Skins were able to open up an 18-9 lead before the Flyers began playing defense with the aggression needed to upset Miami’s timing. After trading missed shots and a few points, Kevin Dillard woke up, jump starting a Flyer surge with 10 points in the final 6:28, and Dayton took a 37-33 into half.
No doubt lifted up by an amazing halftime show put on by something called Quick Change, Dayton came out and let their talent take over. Defense led to offense, the passing was crisp, and they never simply settled for a shot because it was available. No doubt sensing the game was slipping away, John Cooper inexplicably decided that a trapping press was his only option, which led to nothing but easy transition buckets and free throws for Dayton. I assume Cooper watched the Alabama tape, right? Why are teams still pressing Dayton? It’s sheer lunacy. Aside from VCU, there is not a team on Dayton’s schedule who should play anything but a zone or pack line man to man against Dayton.
Despite some good shooting from lefty Jon Harris (16 points, 4-8 from three) and strong interior play from Will Felder (18 points), Miami was never able to threaten. Dayton pulled away to an 83-61 win. If we had made a drinking game for Miami under Charlie Coles, 83 points would be “drink 15 shots of apple pie”.
In a game where all five starters scored in double digits, two putting up double-doubles, it can sometimes be hard to pick a player of the game. This is not one of those times. I have been one of the biggest Devin Oliver fans since he arrived on campus. The talent has always been there, he just needed to develop his skills and gain the confidence to know he can play at a high level. Before the season I mentioned how Oliver may be the most important player on this team. Dillard is the straw that stirs the drink, sure, but Devin Oliver is the only man on the roster who can impact every area of play.
The biggest fallacy of the previous coaching staff was the inability to develop talent, and here we are early in Year 2 ABG and we already have the poster boy for Archie’s development skills. Devin Oliver is performing like an All-A10 player, and virtually every asset he brings to the table was on display tonight. He attacked the rim, showed a deft touch on his baby hook, attacked the glass so hard it left visions of Ryan Perryman dancing through your head, and displayed the court vision and passing of a guard. 15 points, 10 boards, 6 assists. He treated Miami like a Sigma Chi treats a gas station bathroom.
It wouldn’t be fair to let everyone else just fizzle into oblivion. Josh Benson was outstanding, putting up 13 points and 12 boards, seven offensive. He was simply too quick for Miami’s bigs. His (for lack of a better term) stutter-pivot move is nearly unguardable when he keeps the pivot foot on the floor. Dillard fought through some off shooting to put up 15 points and 4 assists, and three attempts to embarrass the opposition with his ball handling skills. Dyshawn Pierre added 12 points and 7 boards, including stunning baseline drive for a bucket in traffic and a pair of threes. Vee Sanford had a rather quiet 14 points, 6/7 from the FT line. Jalen Robinson was the lone impact off the bench, 8 points and 5 boards in only 17 minutes. After the game had long since been decided, Matt Derenbecker did Daddy proud, hitting a pair of threes.
On the heels of the Alabama win, this was a performance that should encourage us as fans. This is a team with very real flaws, namely interior defense and half court offense, but perhaps they are beginning to hit their stride. This being Dayton, we could also have just watched two separate, random events. Either way, winning beats losing, and a Miami game that looked suspiciously like modern basketball was a sight for sore eyes.