Bench play key as Miami routs Central Michigan

OXFORD — Like many Miami men’s basketball observers, second-year coach Travis Steele never knows which RedHawks team is going to show up from game-to-game.

“I like roller-coasters, but I don’t like them with my team,” Steele said on Saturday.

He had just watched Miami — coming off a 77-58 Mid-American Conference loss on Tuesday at Western Michigan — lead by as many as 31 points before settling for an 88-60 MAC win over a Central Michigan team that had knocked off the RedHawks, 71-55, at home on Jan. 23.

“I was proud of how we responded,” Steele said, crediting in part the Millett Hall crowd of 6,732. “We had the right response. We had the right preparation. We had a lot of good performances from different people. We did a good job of understanding the game plan. We wanted to keep them out of the paint.

“It’s funny how some people react to adversity. Today, Central Michigan didn’t respond.”

Junior guard Bradley Dean came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points and tie his career high with five rebounds for Miami (13-14, 7-7). Freshman guard Evan Ipsaro and 7-foot-1 freshman center Reece Potter each scored 15 points as substitutes, helping the RedHawks build an impressive 55-20 bulge in bench points.

“It was a lot of fun,” said the 6-foot-2 Dean, who has played in 19 of Miami’s 27 games after missing the early part of the conference season in January with a shoulder injury.

Dean credited a variety of factors for the turnaround from the earlier loss to the Chippewas.

“It’s a mix of a lot of things,” he said. “We were a little banged up in that first game.”

Miami led Central Michigan for the entire game.

The RedHawks, who have won two of their last three games after losing three straight, are scheduled to play back-to-back games at Bowling Green on Tuesday and Eastern Michigan on Saturday before closing the regular season with home games on March 5 against Toledo and March 8 against arch-rival Ohio on March 8.

Miami has lost to both the Rockets and Bobcats on the road this season, 68-64 at Toledo and 78-69 at Ohio.

The RedHawks went into Saturday’s game tied with Kent State and Western Michigan for sixth in the MAC standings. The top eight teams qualify for the MAC Tournament, which is scheduled to open on March 14 at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland.

Central Michigan was third in the standings, a game behind first-place Akron two ahead of fourth-place Ohio. The Chippewas went into Saturday’s game allowing an average of 69.4 points per game, second-best in the MAC.

Miami’s women led for the entire game while knocking off Eastern Michigan, 48-37, in Saturday’s women’s-men’s doubleheader opener. Junior forward Katey Richason came off the bench to score a game-high 14 points for the RedHawks (8-17, 3-11 MAC), who went into the game ninth in the conference standings. Miami has won three of its last four games.

The visiting Eagles finished with just four assists while committing 28 turnovers.

Potter, whose career scoring high was 17 points going into the game, came off the bench to score 13 over 8:49 minutes of the first half to lead the RedHawks to a 46-24 halftime lead. Miami forced Central Michigan into eight turnovers while committing just three, leading to a 10-4 advantage in points off turnovers. Paced by Potter, the RedHawks’ bench also outscored Central Michigan’s, 28-11, by halftime.

Miami shot  51.6 percent (16-of-31) from the field, including 53.3 percent (8-of-15) on 3-pointers, while building its substantial halftime lead. The Chippewas shot 33.3 percent (8-of-24) overall and 27.3 percent (3-of-11) on 3-pointers.

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