Defense has been a point of emphasis for the University of Dayton basketball team since last season, and coach Archie Miller wanted to check to see if the Flyers had been making any progress by comparing film of their first exhibition in 2011-12 to the one eight days ago against Findlay.
“It was way, way different,” Miller said.
That’s different in a good sense, which UD fans will be glad to hear.
Miller’s first team at UD last season was exceptionally fluid on offense but was gashed frequently on defense. The Flyers’ defensive field-goal percentage was 44.8, the highest shooting mark for opponents since the 1994-95 team, which finished 7-20, allowed foes to hit 48.1 percent.
The Flyers cobbled together a 20-13 record and a fifth-straight postseason appearance despite giving up 67.6 points per game, the most they’ve allowed in 13 years. Nine foes shot 50 percent or better from the field, including Saint Joseph’s (52.7), Rhode Island (52.6) and Duquesne (51.7) in consecutive Atlantic 10 losses.
But while the offense may take an early hit because of the turnover in personnel, the Flyers should be much more active on defense with nimble newcomers Jalen Robinson and Devon Scott alternating with senior forward Josh Benson to form an agile inside attack and swift shooting guard Vee Sanford joining veteran point guard Kevin Dillard to apply pressure on the perimeter.
“Our defense last year had holes. I think a lot of those holes are filled up by some new bodies,” Miller said. “You throw Jalen and you throw Devon out there with Josh inside — and the athleticism with Devin (Oliver) and Vee combined with Kevin — and your quickness level is much different.
“We’re also much more understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish off the ball with seasoned returning guys. The younger guys are being taught. We had a much more defensive-minded offseason than we did a year ago. The natural progression of our team has to become that.”
The Flyers were 11th in the A-10 last season in field-goal percentage defense. In the three previous years under coach Brian Gregory, they were tied for fourth (41.4), second (39.3) and second (39.7).
They also were eighth in 3-point percentage defense (33.5). They finished fourth (32.3), fifth (30.6) and second (31.2) in that category in the three years before that.
“Those things last year at times were there, and at times they weren’t,” Miller said. “They have to be consistent this year to give us a chance to win.”
Miller saw promise against Findlay even before the video comparison and will be looking for more tonight against Walsh.
“Defensively, we’re still a 20- to 25-minute team as far as playing hard. We’ve got to slowly but surely start creeping into the 30’s and, hopefully, by our opener, we’re ready to go a full 40 because that’s what we’re going to need,” he said.
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