Surging RedHawks seeking fourth straight win

Wright State guard Tim Finke and center Loudon Love (center) battle with Miami guard Milos Jovic and forward James Back for a loose ball during a mens basketball game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED

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Wright State guard Tim Finke and center Loudon Love (center) battle with Miami guard Milos Jovic and forward James Back for a loose ball during a mens basketball game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED

Jack Owens has been saying for at least the past couple of weeks that all his Miami men’s basketball team needed to find a rhythm was to play games on a regular bases.

The fourth-year RedHawks’ coach couldn’t have been more right.

Miami has a chance to win four straight games against Division I opponents for the first time since February of 2015 when Toledo visits Millett Hall for a Mid-American Conference game on Tuesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. against a Rockets team that enters the game leading the MAC with an 8-1 conference record. Toledo, picked in the pre-season MAC coaches poll to finish sixth in the conference, is 13-4 overall.

The RedHawks (7-4, 4-2) have shaken off seeing four non-conference games cancelled and four MAC games postponed due to pandemic protocols to string together three consecutive games with 80 or more points for the first time since the 1997-1998 season – also known as the Wally Szczerbiak era.

Led by sophomore guard Dae Dae Grant, who was named on Monday the MAC Player of the Week, Miami has scored 81, 96 and 85 points while winning three games in five days. The 96 points piled by up the RedHawks against pre-season MAC favorite Bowling Green on Thursday were the most for Miami against a Division I team in regulation since a 102-75 win over Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis on Dec. 2, 1997. They were the most for the RedHawks against a MAC opponent since a 96-76 win over Eastern Michigan on March 8, 1997, in the MAC Tournament championship game.

It’s not as much fun as it looks, Owens said during a Monday Zoom media session.

“Somewhat,” he allowed. “It’s all stressful. It’s good. This is a good group. They’re fun to be around. It’s good to see them get rewarded for how much time they put in, but last week is over with. We’re looking forward to this week.

“Last week, we obviously played well on both sides of the ball. They followed the game plan and executed to a high level.”

The 6-foot-2 Grant averaged 21.2 points per game last week, setting a career high with 27 points in the win over Bowling Green and then surpassing it with 28 at Eastern Michigan on Saturday in Miami’s first road win of the season. He shot 57.9 percent from the field and 63.2 percent on 3-pointers over the three-game stretch.

“That’s a well-deserved honor, but while it’s the individual who gets the award, it’s not just him,” Owens said. “He gets the team involved. He puts in the time after hours. If you put in the time, you will get rewarded. He’s that guys who puts in a lot of time at his craft.”

Grant’s contributions are easily chronicled, but Owens pointed out that there’s more to Miami’s recent surge.

“This group has great chemistry,” he said. “They hang out to the best of their ability, due to COVID. This is the closest we’ve had since we’ve been here. It shows in how they share the basketball. They pass up a good shot to get someone else a better shot.”

One of the advantages to having fewer fans in the stands due to pandemic protocols is being able to better hear on-court conversations, and one constant refrain with the RedHawks is “one more” and “next pass,” which would warm any coach’s heart. Owens is not immune.

“It’s refreshing,” he said. “Seeing the younger guys make the next pass to get a decent shot is something we need to continue to do. ‘A shot for Miami’ is what we talk about, and we continue to embrace that.”

Miami’s three postponed MAC games – one at home against Ohio University scheduled for Dec. 29, and two on the road against Central Michigan, scheduled for Jan. 2, and Western Michigan, scheduled for Jan. 16, have yet to be rescheduled.

“There’s nothing official yet,” Owens said. “I know the league is working hard with the administration to get things worked out. Hopefully, we’ll get those assigned in the next week or two. We all want to be on the same page.”

The RedHawks are scheduled to stay home for a 2 p.m. game on Saturday against Western Michigan.

TUESDAY’S GAME

Toledo at Miami, 7 p.m., ESPN+, 980, 1450

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