The unofficial start of the John Cooper era was marked with a victory Wednesday night.
Miami University’s men’s basketball team got 15 points and nine rebounds from Will Felder en route to a 73-64 exhibition triumph over Division II Maryville (Mo.) before a crowd of 1,012 at Millett Hall.
“From an effort standpoint, not bad,” Cooper said. “I thought our guys did some things well in spurts. I thought our press was able to affect them in spurts, and we were able to get on some runs.
“We’re not where I expect us to be yet in our conditioning. One of the things they always hear me say is, ‘When we are tired, we don’t look tired.’ We always want the other team to think we’re not tired.”
The RedHawks got off to a slow start and didn’t look comfortable with Cooper’s up-tempo style, but that changed as the game progressed. Their full-court pressure was particularly effective late in the first half and sparked a 15-2 run that gave the hosts a 33-24 edge at the break.
Miami never trailed from there, though the Saints did fight back to even the score at 58-58 with 8:50 left.
“We definitely didn’t want to give up that many points,” said junior guard Quinten Rollins, who collected eight points, five assists, five steals and three boards for the RedHawks. “It wasn’t like the effort wasn’t there. I just think our energy was kind of down from where the coaches want it at and where we want it at for the rest of the season.”
“He’s definitely taking the steps to get us into the shape that he wants us to be into,” added Felder of Cooper. “We’ve just got to keep on pushing forward and fighting through the fatigue. He always says he doesn’t care about fatigue, so we can’t either.”
Felder, a 6-foot-7 junior forward who sat out last season after transferring from Saint Francis (Pa.), tallied 13 second-half points for the RedHawks and was part of a starting lineup that included Vince Legarza, Rollins, Allen Roberts and Will Sullivan.
Roberts and Drew McGhee both had 10 points, Josh Sewell tossed in eight points, Bill Edwards notched seven points and six rebounds, and Jon Harris added five points and seven caroms. Freshman Geovonie McKnight was solid with three points, four rebounds and three steals.
Miami forced 21 turnovers, but didn’t make its coach happy with an 18-of-28 effort at the foul line. The RedHawks’ field-goal percentage was 45.5.
“That opponent wasn’t necessarily fair to them from the standpoint of their style of play,” Cooper said. “The Princeton offense is something that we had not worked on at all.”
Maryville center Max Mischkulnig, a Ross High School graduate, had four points and seven boards.
Miami opens the season at North Carolina State on Nov. 9.