By: Steven Wright – Sports Editor
Preparation in March for tournament games comes in different forms for players and coaches.
University of Dayton men’s basketball’s sophomore forward Dyshawn Pierre was the lone Flyer lounging in the stands for a few minutes prior to his team’s win against Fordham University, Thursday, March 13, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y in the Atlantic 10 Conference Men’s Basketball Championship.
Listening to his headphones and sitting among fans in attendance while watching part of the tournament’s first game of the day, Pierre said that was his way of maintaining focused on the task ahead.
“I was just trying to get my mind off everything, kick out the noise and get my mind right for the game,” Pierre said. “The ‘advance’ mentality is just what we need.”
Dayton focused quickly after having to prepare against an unknown opponent. The Flyers had beaten Fordham earlier this season in the Bronx, N.Y. Jan. 15, but they were unknown in the sense UD didn’t know they would be its first foe until just after 9 p.m., Wednesday, March 12, leaving roughly 17 hours to scout the Rams.
Pierre said they began going over what was needed around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, and thought he and his teammates had the right mentality in knowing how to get themselves ready on such short notice.
“We just wanted to make sure we were prepared for the game,” he said. “Coaches had us watch a bit of film and we did a walkthrough this morning. By the time it was game time, we were all ready for it.”
Dayton was able to send coaches to scout Fordham Wednesday, knowing either they or George Mason University would be the opponent. The situation reverses heading into UD’s quarterfinal matchup against fourth-seeded Saint Joseph’s University. Now it’s Dayton attempting to get ready for an opponent that had nothing else to do Thursday but practice and scout against them.
“We’re just going to do what we do everyday,” senior forward Devin Oliver said. “When we go back to work tonight, look at film, get our team prepared and come with an attack mentality and just try to continue to advance. Can’t worry about the past two games, just get ready for the game tomorrow and continue to attack.”
The two games Oliver referred to were a pair of losses to St. Joes already this season, a buzzer beating 3-pointer at home by SJU senior guard Langston Galloway, and a 26-point blowout in Philadelphia in the rematch.
“We haven’t played well against them in three halves in a row,” head coach Archie Miller said. “We sustained it at home for a half, second half we didn’t have a whole lot of answers and obviously in Philadelphia we had zero answers. We have a big challenge.”
Dayton began the game in Philadelphia without a field goal in the first five minutes, falling behind by double digits early and only once briefly getting the deficit below 10 points.
Miller said the entire team has to be more detailed in its approach for Friday, but that the biggest issue is getting over what he called, “a great plan against us.”
“We can’t score,” he said. “We haven’t been able to score against them in two games. If we can’t score, they’re too good to hold off. They continue the tempo really well. They really barricade around the basket. It’s been difficult for us to get easy ones and we haven’t shot it particularly well.”
The team is upbeat about its chances and redshirt junior guard Vee Sanford said he expects it to be a dogfight.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times,” Sanford said. “I feel like we’re prepared. And the edge that we have, we don’t want to go home. We want to continue to play.”
And they haven’t forgotten about the blowout loss.
“It obviously leaves a bitter taste in our mouth,” Pierre said. “We haven’t forgotten about that game. But we just have to get prepared and advance one more time.”
Advancing in March often comes down to the preparation each team is able to put in each day, usually with less than 24 hours to do so.
“This is a different season, so to speak,” Miller said. “There’s a lot of freshness in the air right now. Playing in this venue this time of year and you get one under your belt as well, you have to feel good about taking the floor [Friday]. The only thing on our mind right now is an opportunity to compete against [St. Joes] and see if we can find a way. It’s probably the same thing they’re trying to do.”