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RedHawks look to continue hot streak at home against Toledo

By Zach Maciaszek
On January 28, 2014

After a loss to the University of Missouri-Kansas City on Dec. 26 that dropped the Miami University men's basketball team to 2-6, the RedHawks were arguably at their lowest point. Instead of giving in and folding, the 'Hawks have gone 6-3 and find themselves one game back in the race for the top spot in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) standings.

Head coach John Cooper believes Miami (8-9, 4-2 MAC) has begun to cement its identity during the recent hot stretch.

"I think our guys really understand how we have to win and who we are now," Cooper said. "More importantly, they've accepted and taken on [their] roles. It's a group that as you watch them interact with each other gets along, we have guys that are valuing their roles."

Cooper said each night it has been a different player who has emerged to play a key part in their victories.

"Any game it's been a different guy," Cooper said. "But everyone has been prepared and ready to step up. We've gotten production from guys when maybe someone else was struggling, and so it's the sign of a team that's coming together."

Senior forward Will Felder credits the team's hot stretch to an improved defense.

"For one just guarding the ball," Felder said. "In general defense: I think our defense has picked up a lot over the last stretch of games. I think we understand that in order for us to win we've got to be solid throughout the game. And so I think that guarding the ball and defensive rebounding, boxing out, those types of things have led to winning games because it's made it easier for us on the offensive side."

Felder has been key to the 'Hawks recent improved play. He was named the MAC East Division Co-Player of the Week Monday. In two games, both Miami victories, Felder averaged 17 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game while shooting 70 percent from the field.

Another key contributor to the RedHawks' recent run has been junior guard Will Sullivan, who was relegated to the bench earlier in the season, is averaging 18 points over the team's last two games.

Miami's next game is against the University of Toledo (17-2, 5-1 MAC) Wednesday. The Rockets currently sit atop the MAC.

Cooper said the 'Hawks will need to be at their best if they are to keep up with the Rockets.

"Everyone's bigger than we are," Cooper said. "They're a good team ... we're gonna have to play extremely well. They can really put a lot of points up on the board. We have our hands full."

Felder said the team recognizes the importance of its matchup with Toledo.

"It's not necessarily a different mindset but it's kind of a different feeling," Felder said. "I think that with us knowing that they're tied for first place ... it's a big game, it's at home, students are back, we just got back from a break, we're expecting a [big] turnout ... We've got a lot of things that we're playing for in this game."

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday and the game will feature a performance from the Firecrackers at halftime.

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