Four of Dayton’s first nine opponents ranked in the top 100. Only one (No. 229 Ohio) ranked outside the top 200. Dayton’s 10th opponent, Georgia State, ranks 220th but shouldn’t be overlooked for a number of reasons, one being its coach Ron Hunter, a Dayton native who Grant knows well. The Flyers play the Panthers at 7 p.m. Saturday at UD Arena.
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Hunter, a Chaminade Julienne graduate, played at Miami University. He is one year older than Grant, who played for the Flyers at the same time. Miami and Dayton split six games in the three seasons their careers overlapped (1983-86).
Hunter and Grant also coached against each other in 2013 when Grant was at Alabama. The Crimson Tide beat Georgia State 75-58 in the quarterfinals of the NIT Season Tip Off.
“We had some really good battles,” Grant said. “I’ve known Ron for a long time.”
Hunter started his head coaching career at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and twice brought his team to UD Arena to play the Flyers, losing 76-66 in his first season (1998-99) and 61-59 in 2003.
This is the first meeting between Dayton and Georgia State. Hunter is in his seventh season and three seasons removed from a 25-10 season that saw the No. 14 seed Panthers upset No. 3 seed Baylor in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Georgia State features a top-100 recruit in D’Marcus Simonds, a sophomore point guard who leads the team in scoring (19.6 points per game) and assists (4.9). He had the school’s first triple-double in November (20 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists).
“They’re a good team,” Grant said. “Obviously, I’ve got a lot of respect for Ron as a coach. He’s had a lot of success at a lot of his stops. He’s built a really good program at Georgia State. He’s got a young man who’s a sophomore point guard that’s really on NBA radars anywhere you look. He’s a guy that’s talked about a lot.”
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Georgia State’s defense could be a problem for Dayton. The Panthers force 17.6 turnovers per game. That ranks 27th in the country. Dayton has committed at least 14 turnovers in its last five games.
“Defensively, they’re going to mix things up with a matchup zone,” Grant said. “They throw some different combinations at you. They’ve got some guys from an offensive standpoint you have to be aware of. You have to be ready to limit their opportunities.”
Georgia State at Dayton, 7 p.m., Spectrum Sports, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO