Jeff Dowtin and David Cox met with the media to talk about Saturday's game against Dayton.
On last year's Dayton game: It definitely brings back a lot of good memories. Last time we played them, we clinched the regular season title at home. We’ve got another opportunity to play them at home. I’m looking forward to it.
On big home wins: Without a doubt, it gives us confidence. I love playing in front of this crowd. They give us a lot of energy, and we’ve got to go out there and play for our fans. We’ve got a few big wins here at home. I’m excited for this game.
On the A-10 race: We’re definitely thinking about postseason. This league is very tight - one or two games back in the middle half of the league. This is definitely a big win. We need this win. We’ve got to come out and be the more desperate team.
On Dayton's offense: They like to pound the ball inside. They don’t shoot too many 3s. Everything is inside the rim, mid-range. We’ve got to play kind of a pack-line defense and forced them into tough shoots, then rebound the ball a lot, too.
On adjusting to different attacks: These teams in the league all have something they’re very good at. Davidson likes to shoot the 3 a lot. Their style is very different. Dayton likes to get the ball inside. You’ve just got to adjust, take the scout very seriously, watch a lot of film and try to understand their tendencies and how to guard them.
On outside shooting: We’ve got to focus on playing inside-out more, instead of outside-in. A lot of teams are going to give us those 3-point shots. We’re able to make those and step into those with a lot of confidence. We’ve got to trust ourselves more, get our legs under us when we take those shots and know you’re going to be able to knock them down.
On confidence gained from the home wins over St. Louis and VCU: It lets us know that we can compete with anybody in this league. Obviously, the home court advantage is huge for us. The energy that this crowd brings us is tremendous and we feed off of it. I think there’s just a different level of focus that our guys have had. Not to say that on the road, we haven’t had focus, but the combination of focus and energy from the crowd here has helped us get over the hump in a couple of big games. I think it does bode well for our confidence knowing we can win against really good teams here at home.
On last year's Dayton game: I haven’t thought about that at all. That seems like five years away, to be honest. This is a new team. They’re a new team, a really talented team, as usual. But a little more talented than last year’s team. So we’re focused in on this 2019 version of Dayton that has a lot of weapons.
On the A-10 race: We’re kind of right there in the middle of the pack. It’s a huge game for a number of reasons. One, it’s our next game. Two, it’s a conference game. Three, it’s a home game. With all that factoring in, it makes it a huge game. And obviously, we’re coming down to the tail end, this is the second half now of conference play. Every game now, the value, the meaning of it is multiplied as far as jockeying for position in the conference rankings.
On Dayton's offense: They’ve gotten good guard play from both Jordan Davis and the point guard Crutcher. But their two big men are dominant. Obi Toppin, who they bring off the bench, would start everywhere else in this league and I’m sure is a shoo-in for sixth man in the year. Cunningham is a first-team all-conference type of player. They’re getting those guys the ball, and those guys are going to work. Everybody would love to play inside out, but not everybody has the capability. They have two guys they can throw the ball inside to. Therefore, they don’t turn the ball over a lot, and they’ve got a pretty good system, their motion offense that they run.
On outside shooting: I don’t think there’s a disconnect. They’re just playing basketball. They’re out there and they took shots they felt they could make. We pounded the ball inside as much as we possibly we could. I wanted the guys to drive some of those closeouts a little bit more, but that’s a difficult team to play against. They’re pack line and they kind of play the drive, so it’s hard to get by them. They encourage you to shoot shots. I don’t think our guys were hunting or chasing any shots. I don’t think there was any disconnect at all. I think we probably should have stuck to the gameplan a little bit more with throwing the ball inside and maybe driving some of those closeouts. But it’s the first time for some of those young guys seeing that type of defense and it’s a heck of a defense.
On Dayton's defense: Size, athleticism, length. They have big guards. Crutcher is 6-1, 6-2, but he probably has a 6-6 wing span. Jordan Davis is about 6-3, 6-4. And they can play a number of guys on the wing that all have size and athleticism and ability. I just think their size, their athleticism and their length overall helps them become a really good defensive team. Not to mention, they don’t turn the ball over a lot, so there aren’t a lot of easy baskets you can get against them.
On Dayton standout Obi Toppin, whom URI recruited: He’s a grown man. We knew the talent was absolutely there. When we were looking at him, we were mesmerized by the talent and the skill level overall from that young man, and he’s displaying it right now. And he hasn’t even begun to show the perimeter game that he really possesses. He is a knockdown shooter. I notice he hasn’t taken a lot of 3s, but he hasn’t had to. Why settle for 3s when you can be a man in the paint, whether they’re throwing you the ball in the paint or they’re throwing lobs because he jumps so high. He’s really come into his own. The redshirt year was good for him. He’s one of the most talented big men in the league, and he’s probably the best NBA prospect that this league holds right now, and he has to be a shoo-in for sixth man of the year.