Sacred Heart University Coach Dave Bike is worried.
His Pioneers, 27-4 and ranked third in the latest Division II poll, lost by 17 points to the University of the District of Columbia earlier this year. Bike has no idea how to prevent another one-sided game.
"Oh, I remember the first game," said Bike, in his fifth year at the Fairfield school. "I had no doubt UDC was a good team, that's why we booked the game. I felt they'd win their region and we were hoping to win ours. We wanted to get an idea of what they had. We're both here and now we have to figure out what to do with UDC."
Bike must find the answer soon. Defending national champion and No. 1-ranked UDC has won 22 straight games (tied with Houston for the longest streak in the nation). The Firebirds (27-2) are favored to defeat Sacred Heart tonight in an NCAA national quarterfinal game at Southern Connecticut State's Moore Fieldhouse at 7:30.
The winner will be among the final four to play for the national title in Springfield, Mass., March 25-26.
"We both like to run and they showed us we can't outrun them," Bike said of the teams' last meeting. "It's tough to try to run with a team of that quality. I don't know what changes we'll make. I'm not even sure we can slow it down."
Sacred Heart needed four overtimes to beat Assumption, 113-108, before holding off American International, 72-68, to win the New England Region. Since losing to the Firebirds, the Pioneers have won 21 of their last 22 games.
The key performers are forwards Keith Bennett (19.1), at 6-foot-5 the leading scorer in the school's history, and 6-6 Rhonie Wright (16.7), and 6-8 center Herb Camero (12.3), all seniors. Freshman Roger Younger (9.1), 6-2, and 6-1 junior Steve Zazuri (5.9) start in the back court.
UDC Coach Wil Jones remembers Sacred Heart, too.
"They run pretty well but I'm not really as concerned about them as they probably should be about us," he said. "We didn't hold back anything the first game; in fact, we played one of our best games of the year. They have three things to worry about--our size underneath, stopping certain individuals and controlling our running game."
The UDC players are looking at Sacred Heart as the last obstacle to the final four.
"We know they'll be tougher this time," said point guard Kenny Payne. "We just have to prepare ourselves and go out and play the way we're capable of playing. We can make it easy or hard. It's up to us."