Finding shooting touch key for Dayton against Miami

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Dayton Flyers highlights: Full-court press vs. Austin Peay

Flyers, Hurricanes will play for the first time in 32 years

The first paragraph of the Dayton Daily News story on the last game between the Dayton Flyers and Miami Hurricanes could be relevant Thursday when the programs play for the first time since 1989.

“The University of Dayton Flyers discovered Wednesday night what happens when their full-court press is ineffective,” wrote Bucky Albers. “They lose.”

Dayton lost that game 87-82 on Dec. 6, 1989, in Miami, Fla. It also turned a full-court press loose on Austin Peay on Saturday at UD Arena and lost 87-81. The press seemed to pay more dividends Saturday than it did in 1989 but also led to some easy baskets for the Governors, who outscored Dayton 14-3 in the final four minutes.

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Will Dayton (1-3) try the press again at noon Thursday when it plays Miami (3-1) in the first round of the ESPN Events Invitational? Coach Anthony Grant didn’t commit one way or the other when asked Monday if there’s any chance he’ll use the strategy again.

“I think there are pros and cons,” Grant said.

The players seemed to enjoy the faster pace.

“It was definitely a big change,” guard Elijah Weaver said. “I think it’s a step in the right direction. I like playing faster. Who doesn’t want to play in transition? We just started playing that way. I think we’re going to adjust to it and get used to it.”

Dayton’s decision to continue with the pressing strategy is one question mark entering Thursday’s game. Here are three more:

1. Can Dayton save its season?

That 1989 loss to Miami was the first of the Jim O’Brien era. Don Donoher’s successor started his Dayton career with three straight victories. That team was 11-9 in February before winning its last seven regular-season games and then three games in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference tournament and then one game in the NCAA tournament against Illinois.

The 1989-90 team provided a lesson on how to turn a season around, though it didn’t start in as big a hole as the 2021-22 team. Few teams have. The current Flyers left for Florida on Tuesday three days after suffering their third loss in eight days at home. One victory Thursday won’t erase the losses to UMass Lowell, Lipscomb and Austin Peay but could provide hope the season won’t be an historically bad one.

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This is a moment Dayton needs leadership. Weaver and Toumani Camara, the most veteran players on the roster, hope to provide it.

“It’s just growing pains, learning pains,” Weaver said. “Every team goes through it. I would tell them to just keep their head up. We’re going to get past this. The storm doesn’t last forever. We’ll bounce back.”

“The most important thing,” Camara said, “is we just need to figure out who we are and what we’re good at and stick with it. Just trust the process and trust one another and get better every day.”

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Anthony Grant interview: Nov. 22, 2021

2. Can Dayton find its shooting touch?

The decision to use the press for a full game showed Grant was willing to try new things to inspire his team, though victories will continue to be hard to come by if Dayton doesn’t improve its shooting from beyond the arc. Dayton ranks 346th out of 358 Division I teams in 3-point shooting percentage (22.8). It’s one spot ahead of its Miami Valley neighbor, Wright State (22.5), which has lost four games in a row.

Dayton has made 18 of 79 3-pointers. Its opponents have made 38 of 93 (40.9 percent). Mustapha Amzil shot 38.2 percent last season (26 of 98). This season, he has made 3 of 17 (17.6). Camara has made 1 of 9. Kobe Elvis has made 2 of 13. Weaver has made 3 of 14.

“We’re just going through a slump,” Weaver said. “That’s the best way I would describe it. We’re a way better team than we’re showing. You just have to keep getting reps. Keep shooting it. Don’t be afraid to shoot it. And have confidence.”

Miami also has struggled from long range. It’s shooting 28.8 percent, which ranks 264th.

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Elijah Weaver interview: Nov. 22, 2021

3. Can Dayton overcome the experience gap?

Miami has four sixth-year players on its roster. The NCAA’s decision to give everyone an extra season of eligibility because of the pandemic, which robbed many players of full seasons a season ago, has created a number of so-called “super seniors” across the country.

One of Miami’s sixth-year players, guard Kameron McGusty, played two seasons at Oklahoma, sat out a season and is now in his third season at Miami. He leads the team with 19 points per game. Charlie Moore, the team’s third-leading scorer is on his fourth team. Those two players alone have played in more combined games in their careers than Dayton’s entire starting lineup.

Miami isn’t unbeatable despite its age. It lost its second game 95-89 to Central Florida and needed a last-second layup to beat Florida Atlantic 68-66 in its third game on Nov. 16. It delivered its most dominant performance Sunday in an 86-59 victory against Florida A&M.

Miami is still seeking a high-profile victory. Beating Dayton might not provide that, considering the Flyers’ 1-3 start, though it likely will lead to a second-round matchup with No. 4 Kansas on Friday. Dayton wants that same chance.

“Anthony Grant is an outstanding coach, he and I have battled against each other many times,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga told the Miami Herald this week. “Their team this year is very typical of an Anthony Grant team. They have a lot of size, athletes, skills. They run a lot of different offenses and defenses, so our guys really need to mentally prepare because they’re perhaps the best team we’ve played so far.”

THURSDAY’S GAME

Dayton vs. Miami (Fla.), Noon, ESPN2, 1290, 95.7

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Toumani Camara interview: Nov. 22, 2021

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