Miami’s five-game losing streak left virtually nothing for the RedHawks to shoot for in the Mid-American Conference, but two straight wins have them in position to salvage something.
A MAC tournament home game.
Miami (11-15, 7-8) rode a combination of its 65-61 win over Akron and Kent State’s loss to Bowling Green on Wednesday into eighth place in the overall MAC standings. If Wednesday had been the last night of the regular season, the RedHawks would have earned a home game in the first round of the MAC tournament, which starts March 10 on the home courts of the teams seeded fifth through eighth against the teams seeded ninth through 12th.
Obviously, the season didn’t end, and keeping the spot won’t be easy for Miami. After playing three consecutive games on their home court at Millett Hall, the RedHawks open a two-game road trip today at Buffalo (17-8, 11-4), which has won three straightto build a two-game lead in the MAC East, followed by a visit to Kent State on Tuesday.
Miami has lost to both teams at home, but the RedHawks have a renewed sense of confidence after holding off Akron for a 65-61 win on Wednesday after losing to the Zips by seven at Akron on Jan. 15.
“It helps us get some momentum going into tournament time,” said senior forward Will Felder, who scored 16 points in the win. “That’s big.”
The RedHawks watched a 13-point, second-half lead dissolve into a tie game before regaining the lead and coming away with the win Wednesday. Second-year coach John Cooper was impressed by their resolve.
“I thought our guys never, ever lost confidence,” he said. “They were focused and locked in.”
They also were balanced, with three players in double figures — Felder, junior guard Will Sullivan with 16 points and sophomore guard Geovonie McKnight with 13 — while senior guard Quinten Rollins and freshman guard Jaryd Eustace just missed with nine points each.
“That’s something we have to hang our hat on,” Felder said. “We can’t just be a team defense team or a team rebounding team, but we’ve got to be a team scoring team, too. It can’t just be outside or inside.”
Miami will most likely need a balanced approach to overcome Javon McRea, Buffalo’s imposing 6-foot-senior forward. McRea is the only MAC player averaging a double-double, leading the conference with an average of 10.1 rebounds per game while ranking second with an average of 18.7 points per game. McRea, who finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds in the Bulls’ 75-62 win at Miami on Feb. 12, also is third with a .567 field-goal percentage and an average of 2.3 blocks per game.
Buffalo senior guard Jarod Oldham is second in the MAC with an average of 5.3 assists per game, including six in Buffalo’s win at Miami.
Still, the RedHawks are feeling much better about themselves than they did just a week ago, especially after pulling out the win over the Zips.
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