By: Chris Bendel – Sports Editor
After going 2-1 and placing third in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament, the University of Dayton Flyers men’s basketball team (4-1) will face Miami University of Ohio (2-3) in Oxford, Ohio, Wednesday at 7 p.m.
With victories over Texas A&M and Boston College and a loss in a closely-fought game to the defending NCAA champions, the University of Connecticut, the Flyers are in the early stages of building the team’s identity for the season, an important process for head coach Archie Miller.
“We improved a lot game to game [in Puerto Rico],” Miller said. “That was the quest going down there, to build on what we’ve done here early in the season.”
Junior forward Devon Scott, who sealed the last-second victory with a tip-in against Texas A&M in the game’s waning seconds, summed up the lessons UD can apply to the remainder of the season. For Scott, the trip tested the team in many facets, and the Flyers passed the test.
“The Texas A&M game showed us that we can stick it out until the very end,” Scott said. “The UConn game showed us that we can hang with anyone, the defending champions. The [Boston College] game showed us that we can turn around from a tough loss and get a hard-fought win … we showed a lot of maturity.”
At home following the Puerto Rico trip Saturday, UD handled the University of Illinois at Chicago in a 75-41 victory.
Redshirt senior guard Jordan Sibert, who after a slow start in the first two games of the season has averaged 20 points per game over the last three, led the team with 22 points on 7-11 shooting from the field and 4-6 from three-point range against UIC.
Sibert was also selected to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off’s all tournament team.
Against UIC, redshirt senior and transfer guard Ryan Bass made his first appearance of the season after sitting out the first four contests with a concussion suffered during the team’s preseason practices.
With Bass healthy, the Flyers have the ability to throw nine scholarship players at opposing teams, the first time all season the team has had a full arsenal of healthy players.
Through the first five games, seven UD players have scored in double figures, including junior forward Dyshawn Pierre, who is second on the team in scoring behind Sibert with 12.6 points per game.
Pierre also leads the team in rebounding, averaging 7.2 rebounds per game.
“Everyone knows any night if you show up to play and do the right things you can have a big night,” Scott said.
Holding opponents to just under 55 points per game, UD’s defense has gotten off to a strong start, especially evident in the 65-53 victory over Boston College where the Flyers shot just 43 percent from the field but forced 17 turnovers on the afternoon to secure the victory.
Up next for Dayton are the Miami (OH) RedHawks, who went 13-18 last year and play in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). The RedHawks return three starters from last year’s team but lost senior forward and leading scorer Will Felder to graduation.
The two teams last matched up in an 83-61 Flyer victory in 2012 at UD Arena.
While the game will not be televised, Flyer fans can listen on the radio by streaming on WHIO.com.