Call it a successful start for the Miami University women’s basketball team.
The RedHawks outscored Tiffin 23-6 over the final eight minutes to record an 80-70 exhibition victory Sunday at Millett Hall, putting five scorers in double digits: Courtney Osborn (20), Jessica Rupright (17), Haley Robertson (11), Erica Almady (10) and Kirsten Olowinski (10).
The win had a few warts, but was generally a solid showing for a squad that was missing three injured players.
“It’s good to get the jitters out,” MU coach Maria Fantanarosa said. “I think you were able to see that our upperclassmen were hesitant with the new roles. I also think you got to see that our freshmen are ready to help us.”
Osborn, a senior guard and potential All-American, collected 13 assists, five rebounds and four steals. She said Miami cranked up the defensive heat after the Dragons moved ahead 64-57.
“You just have a sense of urgency that you want to win this game,” Osborn said. “They were ready to fight 40 minutes, so give credit to them. When we were down by seven, we knew that it was all going to start on the defensive end. Our defense is still a work in progress, but when we needed stops, we got stops.
“Anybody can do anything on the offensive end, and that’s the beauty of this offense.”
MU shot 58.3 percent from the field and only committed 13 turnovers. The hosts also gave up 70 points to a Division II opponent and got outrebounded 35-29 — Fantanarosa said those areas will continue to be emphasized in practice.
The RedHawks were missing two of their best defenders, guards Hannah Robertson and Courtney Larson. Freshman forward Tamira Ford was also sidelined.
“With two ball-pressuring quick guards out, we’re asking everyone to play a little bit longer, but we’re also asking our forwards to guard guards,” Fantanarosa said. “They’re getting better at it, but that’s like asking a lineman to play quarterback. It’s taking some time.”
Robertson is expected to be ready Friday when MU opens the campaign at Eastern Kentucky. Larson and Ford won’t be available for the opener.
Rupright, a 6-foot-2 freshman and Indiana’s Miss Basketball last season, converted 8-of-9 field goals (including a 3-pointer) and grabbed five boards. Classmate Hannah McCue added eight points.
“It felt great just to finally be at this level,” Rupright said. “I’ve been working hard, and I have great senior leaders that have been helping me with the transition.”
With Miami coming off a 21-win season and picked to win the Mid-American Conference East Division this year, Rupright said it’s obvious to her that this is a program on the rise.
“Definitely,” she said. “That was one of the reasons why I came here because I saw it going up.”
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