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Women's basketball finds strength in numbers, depth

It's been exactly one month since women's basketball began their season with an exhibition against Tiffin. All signs pointed to a successful year for the RedHawks behind the leadership of their second-year head coach Megan Duffy.

With six games in the rearview, Miami's 5-1 start, with its only loss to No. 5 Louisville, is a promising sign for a team looking to prove last year's success (21-11, 12-6 Mid-American Conference) wasn't a fluke.

But the victories haven't all been pretty, and there is still room for improvement before conference play begins next month.

Coming off a standout season when she led the 'Hawks with 19.6 points per game, junior guard Lauren Dickerson hasn't found her rhythm yet. In the first six games, Dickerson is still averaging a team-high 12.5 points per game, but is shooting 31 percent from the field and 28 percent from behind-the-arc - the least efficient of any MU starter.

Given her skill set, Dickerson has the green light to keep firing and, when those shots do begin falling, Miami will be all the more lethal offensively.

In the meantime, the 'Hawks have incorporated a balanced attack and are getting significant contributions from several different players. A different RedHawk has led the team in scoring in five of the six games this season.

Junior forward Savannah Kluesner has established herself as a dominant force on both ends of the court. Her efficiency in the paint has been a welcome sign of her growth, as she is averaging 11.3 points on 55 percent shooting.

Despite missing a game to injury, junior forward Kendall McCoy's ability to space the floor has proved invaluable for a team that has struggled from deep this season. Currently, McCoy is shooting a remarkable 45 percent from 3-point range and averaging 10.8 points per game.

The most notable storyline thus far is the emergence of freshman guard Nia Clark as an essential piece of the lineup early in her collegiate career.

"She's just growing every day," Duffy said. "She brings an aggressive nature on the court, she's a great athlete [...] the more times she gets on the floor, the more time she gets to practice with us, she's going to see her game take off even more."

Already having logged the third-most minutes on the team, Duffy depends on Clark to add composure to her experienced teammates. Clark averages 8.8 points per game and shoots 40 percent from the field.

After losing to national powerhouse Louisville, which boasts one of the best players in the country in junior guard Asia Durr, the 'Hawks were eager to return to the court.

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"That's the most exciting thing as a coach," Duffy said. "Just to see the first day of practice after coming back from a loss, and get that fight back and regroup."

The RedHawks certainly learned from their loss to Louisville and are coming off a 65-56 victory on the road against the University of Illinois at Chicago. Miami returns to Millett Hall to host local rival Cincinnati on Wednesday night.

The Bearcats (5-4) have dropped two straight games to Ball State and Ohio State on the road and have a 1-3 record away from home. When Cincinnati hosted the RedHawks last year, they sent Miami home with a 73-62 loss.

Tipoff is at 7 p.m, and the game can be watched on ESPN+.