Game against Bearcats ‘great opportunity’ for Flyers

UC has dominated series but teams haven’t played since 2010

CINCINNATI — Photos of some of the famous musicians who have performed at the Heritage Bank Center, which was once known as Riverfront Coliseum, line the walls of one hallway at the arena. Elton John, Eric Clapton, Sting, the list goes on and on.

The venue across the street from the Ohio River has a rich basketball history as well. Indiana earned a spot in the Final Four in 1987 by beating Duke and LSU in NCAA tournament regional games at the site. The Tennessee Volunteers won the NCAA women’s championship there in 1997. The Cincinnati Bearcats called the place home for many years in the 1970s and 1980s until the construction of an on-campus arena.

The Dayton Flyers own a 3-11 record at the Heritage Bank Center and will get a chance to improve that mark Dec. 16 when they play the Bearcats for the first time in 13 years. The matchup, which will be called the Hoops Classic, was announced Wednesday at a press conference featuring the two head coaches: UD’s Anthony Grant and UC’s Wes Miller.

“First and foremost, we’re looking at two very tradition-rich programs,” Grant said. “I’m fortunate that I played at Dayton, and I can remember during my time playing against UC and that rivalry and the history. I think you’ve got two of the elite fan bases in the country. I know in a non-conference game to get this quality of an opponent on our schedule, it’s a great opportunity for our guys. I know our guys are excited about it, and I know the fan bases are really excited about the opportunity to renew the rivalry.”

For Dayton, the game continues a trend of prominent non-conference games being played on a neutral court. Dayton beat Wyoming 66-49 at the United Center in Chicago last season. It played Mississippi State in Atlanta in December 2020. It played Saint Mary’s in Phoenix and Colorado in Chicago in December 2019. A year earlier, it played Tulsa in Connecticut.

Asked why the programs decided to play on a neutral court instead of starting a home-and-home series, Grant said, “I think the administration at both universities got together and looked at a way to renew the rivalry and tried to decide where the best place was for it. This facility, obviously, it’s a neutral site that was available and is accessible to both fan bases. So I think it just makes sense to go here.”

The game time and television info will be announced at a later date.

Dayton season-ticket holders can start buying tickets at 10 a.m. Thursday. According to UD, “More information will be emailed directly to Flyer season ticket holders from the UD Arena Ticket Office on how to access this presale. UD fans are encouraged to purchase in sections 101-108, 132-140, 201-210, and 232-240.”

Tickets go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. July 26 at, or through the Ticketmaster app.

The Heritage Bank Center opened in 1975. It’s currently undergoing a renovation. New seating was being installed Wednesday. A court and basketballs will be brought in for this game. UD and UC fans will be split with each group on one end of the court.

Cincinnati leads the series 60-31. The teams played regularly from the 1920s through the early 2000s until UC joined the Big East Conference in the 2005-06 season. They played four times during UC’s eight seasons in the Big East and did not meet during UC’s 10 seasons in the American Athletic Conference. The Bearcats join the Big 12 this season.

The last game in the series, on Nov. 27, 2010, also took place at the Heritage Bank Center, which was then called U.S. Bank Arena. The Bearcats beat the Flyers 68-34 in front of 6,016 fans in the Global Sports Main Event finale.

A season earlier, Dayton beat UC 81-66 at Fifth Third Arena, the Bearcats’ home court, in the second round of the NIT.

Dayton earned 20 of its 31 victories against UC before 1960. The Flyers have losing streaks of 14 games (1958-69), nine games (1975-83) and 11 games (1989-2001) in the series.

Miller, who’s entering his third season at UC, has never coached or played against the Flyers but did play two games at UD Arena in the NCAA tournament as a redshirt junior at North Carolina. He started and scored nine points in a second-round loss to George Mason in 2006.

Cincinnati finished 23-13 last season and reached the third round of the NIT. It lost its top two scorers: Landers Nolley (16.8 points per game); and David Dejulius (14.8). Its top returning scorer is forward Viktor Lakhin (11.6).

The Bearcats begin their first season in the Big 12 with seven newcomers, including four transfers: forward Jamille Reynolds (Temple); forward Aziz Bandaogo (Utah Valley); guard CJ Fredrick (Kentucky); and guard/forward Simas Lukosius (Butler).

Miller said he supported the idea of playing Dayton as soon as he heard the athletic directors of both schools, UD’s Neil Sullivan and UC’s John Cunningham, were talking.

“You’re looking for high-level non-conference games that will help prepare you for league play and to be an NCAA tournament team,” Miller said. “We’re looking for those opportunities in non-league and playing Dayton certainly gives us that opportunity. Then you also kind of check a box of playing in a big-time college basketball environment against a local program with a ton of history and tradition. So on a lot of levels of the game makes sense.”

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