Archie Miller was asked after Thursday’s game how he would approach practice in the week ahead with Christmas falling on Wednesday.
“There’s a holiday?” he joked. “I didn’t even know there was a holiday. If our guys play well and they act right, they can go home.”
Win or lose at 2 p.m. Sunday at UD Arena against Southern California, the Flyers will have much to be thankful for on Christmas morning, but it won’t be quite as festive if they lose. Dayton improved to 9-2 by beating Iona 96-84 on Thursday at UD Arena.
The game wasn’t as close as that final score indicates. The Flyers played as well as they have all season. They’ve dominated their last two games since the loss at Illinois State and have yet to lose at home.
There are plenty of reasons to think the Flyers can beat the Trojans in the second ever meeting between the two programs and avenge a 63-61 overtime defeat last season in Los Angeles.
“Quick turnaround,” Miller said. “Huge, huge game for us. It’s that game before Christmas. It’s a make-or-break game. You’re playing against a team from the Pac 12 that’s coming all the way across the country. Their size presents real problems for us.”
Omar Oraby, a 7-foot-2 senior center from Egypt, and Nikola Jovanovic, a 6-10 forward from Serbia, present challenges for any team. Dayton’s only player taller than 6-9 is the 6-10 Matt Kavanaugh, who has played a total of five minutes in the last two games.
The Trojans (7-4) are strong, but not unbeatable. They just lost 72-71 at Long Beach State on Thursday. That was only the second win for Long Beach State (2-9) and its first against a Division I opponent. Long Beach State had lost nine games in a row against a tough schedule that included games against Arizona, Virginia Commonwealth, Michigan and Kansas State.
USC’s most impressive wins are against Xavier (84-78 on Nov. 30) and Boston College (78-62 on Dec. 8). It’s 0-2 on the road or 1-4 if you include games played at neutral sites. It opened the season with a 78-65 loss at Utah State (7-2).
“For them to come all the way back across the country and play in our arena, I feel it’s going to be a special environment,” Miller said Thursday. “I feel our kids will be ready to play. The turnaround is going to be quick. How smart are we in the next 48 hours in terms of using our legs in what we need to do to prepare to play, but at the same time being mentally and physically ready to play hard. We’ll be ready.”
Southern California at Dayton, 2 p.m., SportsNet New York, Time Warner Cable SportsChannel, 1290, 95.7