By: Steven Wright – Sports Editor
University of Dayton head coach Archie Miller took nothing positive away from his team’s 81-75 loss to Illinois State University Saturday, Dec. 7 in Normal, Ill.
The defeat dropped the UD men’s basketball team out of the Associated Press top 25 rankings one week after making it back in for the first time in over four years. UD received 11 votes to remain in the receiving votes section of the poll this week, while dropping back out of the USA Today Coaches’ Poll rankings completely.
Miller said the ranking is only considered as good as the team’s last performance.
Now, coming off the team’s second loss of the season, he knows another challenge awaits when Central Michigan University comes to UD Arena Saturday, Dec. 14, at 7 p.m.
“This is going to start a long home stand,” Miller said, as the team will play its next five games at UD Arena after five of the previous six were away from home. “Saturday night is something our kids and our staff are in tune to.”
CMU is led by sophomore Chris Fowler, a dribble-drive point guard averaging 16.9 points per game and among the leaders in assists in the country.
Miller said CMU excels from beyond the arc, as they can play lineups with multiple 3-point threats on the court at once. Five different CMU players have over 30 attempts from the 3-point line in nine games, and the team averages 25 shots from distance going into Saturday.
Just under half of the team’s shot attempts have come from three, but the team is also shooting 54.3 percent from inside the arc.
“They’re very difficult to guard,” he said. “They shoot the three from five spots, they take as many and are as dependent on as many as any team in the country. A lot of challenges for us.”
The loss to ISU came on the heels of a successful campaign in the EA Sports Maui Invitational and a win to follow it up after entering the rankings. Miller said he didn’t think the team fulfilled what fans have expected to see after a successful start this season.
However, he thinks the direction the team needs to take moving forward is clear.
“We need to push harder,” Miller said. “Our schedule is going to be tweaked due to exam week and study times, but our players know when they come in between the lines, it’s very important to get better. We have to work very hard to get back to being a competitive team that has an edge about them and a team that hopefully can get [UD Arena] going on Saturday.”
Gavrilovic coming along
Junior forward Alex Gavrilovic has missed extended playing time this season due to knee and back spasms.
Miller said practice this week will be a big step for Gavrilovic and a chance to get himself ready to retake the court.
“He’s worked hard and he’s in good shape and I like where his mind’s at,” Miller said. “Unfortunately, we’ve been traveling a bunch, which didn’t give him a lot of time to practice. If all goes well, I anticipate him having a good week of practice and getting him back out there.”
Gavrilovic appeared in 22 games last season, averaging two points and one rebound. He has only played in two games this season: Nov. 13 against St. Francis (PA) and Nov. 16 against St. Francis Brooklyn, logging one turnover in seven minutes of action.