Dayton coach Archie Miller said Monday the best Christmas present for a coach is to win the game just before Christmas. An even better gift would be a winning streak.
The Flyers (7-2) hope to start one when they host Central Michigan (6-3) at 7 tonight. It’s the first of five straight home games. Three come before Christmas. The next five opponents — Central Michigan, Iona, USC, Murray State and Winthrop — have a combined record of 26-15.
The Chippewas have won four games in a row, but against teams with a combined mark of 14-27.
“I don’t know what anyone anticipated,” Miller said, “but this is the toughest non-conference schedule we’ve had since I’ve been here. There is no cupcake. Every team, including Central Michigan, is good.”
The Flyers have won their first four home games, though not in dominant fashion. Dayton needed a last-second 3-pointer to beat Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne 81-80. It scored a season-low 56 points in its last home game as Delaware State slowed the pace. The 70-56 and 70-58 victories over St. Francis (Pa.) and St. Francis (N.Y.) were closer than the final scores indicated.
This is Dayton’s first chance to put the 81-75 loss at Illinois State last Saturday behind it. That was the first time Dayton gave up 80 points in a game since the season opener against IPFW.
The opening seconds of that game set the tone. Illinois State scored on its first possession, and then Devin Oliver committed a turnover on the in-bounds pass. The Redbirds converted that into a quick basket, and it was 4-0.
Matt Kavanaugh turned the ball over on Dayton’s second possession. The Flyers also had four turnovers by four different players in a three-minute span in the second half. During that span, the Redbirds went on a 11-2 game-deciding run. The Flyers finished with a season-high 18 turnovers in all.
“What really stood out was our competitiveness and toughness,” Miller said. “That wasn’t there from the first tip and was there at any point in time. Very few times can you question our toughness. That wasn’t who we are. I attribute a lot of that to myself. I didn’t have them prepared to compete.
“We just played our fifth game out of six on the road. It’s easy to forget. We’ve got to get back to business. We’ve got a huge game (tonight).”
Central Michigan at Dayton, 7 p.m. 95.7, 1290