Red and White record 600th MAC win
After suffering its second four-game losing skid of the season, the Miami University men's basketball team finally got back on the right side of the win-loss column, beating Central Michigan University 70-61 Saturday afternoon. The win was also historic, as the RedHawks earned their 600th Mid-American Conference (MAC) win, the most of any MAC school.
"Winning's contagious, but losing's just as contagious," sophomore guard Will Sullivan said. "It's been a rough few games, but hopefully we can take this one and have it snowball into the next few."
Redshirt junior guard Allen Roberts found his stroke, after being in a shooting slump, shooting 6-13 from the field. He led the RedHawks (8-12, 3-5 MAC) with 19 points. Redshirt junior forward Will Felder and Sullivan also reached double digits with 11 and 10 points apiece.
Miami found itself down in the early going, but caused trouble for the Chippewas defensively, along with a 9-0 run to take a 17-12 lead with just over seven minutes to play in the first half. A very static first half, which the 'Hawks lead most of the way, ended with Miami holding a 29-24 advantage.
Miami's so-so shooting in the first half, 9-26, was padded by a 36 percent effort from three and 7-12 from the free throw line. The 'Hawks also established their dominance down low, posting a 10-0 points in-the-paint advantage. Defense was big for Miami as well, as the Red and White held Central Michigan to 26 percent from the floor.
"Our confidence is growing," freshman guard Reggie Johnson said. "Even though we haven't shown it with our record, we've been working hard. We're getting better every day."
Miami stepped on the gas in the second half, pushing its shooting percentage to 52 percent. The score tilted back and forth between both teams, with Central Michigan leading by as many as three. The game saw separation when Roberts ignited an 11-2 run to push Miami's lead to 54-48 at the 5:48 mark. The cushion was threatened several more times before game's end, but strong foul shooting kept Miami on top to close out the victory. Johnson's eight points all came from the foul line, as he added four boards and three steals. Miami shot 21-33 from the line.
"I was fine when I got to the line," Johnson said. "Everything we've been down with - free throws, rebounding - we've been working at, so I felt like everybody that was in the lineup was probably confident because now everybody's believing in each other."
For the second consecutive game, the 'Hawks' effort was on par with what Head Coach John Cooper wants from his team. Sullivan added six rebounds to his 24 minute, 4-7 shooting effort, in only his third double figure scoring game all season long.
"Obviously we're happy with getting one on the road," Cooper said. "I thought the guys stuck together. The whole team, with the exception of (Josh) Sewell, played double-digit minutes, so I thought it was a good team effort. I thought we were competitive. I thought we did a much better job on the boards. We had some turnovers that were a little costly, but we were able to come up and make some plays when they were necessary."
Miami won the rebounding battle 36-34, an area it has struggled mightily in all season long. The RedHawks also forced the Chippewas into 14 turnovers.
"I've accepted my role to just be a guy that kind of fills up the stat sheet, help out with rebounding, get some steals on defense," Sullivan said. "It worked out today where I had a couple mismatches where I could take them to the paint."
The loss is the fourth straight for Central (9-12, 2-6 MAC), who shot just 35 percent.
"We've talked about our margin of error being slight this year," Central Michigan Head Coach Keno Davis said. "We didn't make enough shots to be able to get us over the hump in a game that could go either way. I think you're looking at a (Miami) team that has some very good veterans and did a good job defensively for keeping us to a low percentage."
Miami stays on the road, playing 7 p.m. Friday at the University of Toledo. The Rockets are 9-10 on the year, but hold a 5-3 MAC record, second in the West Division.
Defense for the Red and White will have to be on point, as Toledo boasts junior and sophomore guards Rian Pearson and Julius Brown, averaging 18.2 and 13.6 points a game. The Rockets have also won three straight games by a combined 25 points. Miami lost both games to Toledo last season, 63-61 during the regular season and 60-53 in the opening round of the MAC Tournament.
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